17 Nov 2008

Health board defends $16,000 spent on retiring boss

8:56 pm on 17 November 2008

Canterbury District Health Board says its decision to spend $16,000 of taxpayer money on retiring chief executive Gordon Davies was appropriate.

Questions are being asked about the money being spent on a trip to Paris and a farewell function for Gordon Davies, when the board's finances are in the red. It has to make savings of about $20 million this financial year.

About a year after Mr Davies announced his retirement, the board sent him to Paris to attend a conference at a cost of $9,000.

A farewell function was held for Mr Davies at the Crowne Plaza in central Christchurch in November, costing $7,000.

Board chairman Alister James says Mr Davies was the best person to attend the conference on quality improvement, and the farewell function was appropriate for someone who has worked in the health sector for 48 years.

He said that when Mr Davies returned from France he gave presentations to the board, its quality and safety managers and to the clinical board. He also made available to staff a synopsis of the conference. "So there was considerable value arising from his attendance."

The board says its expenditure on social events is minimal compared with some organisations and it has a plan in place to save the $20 million needed.

Health funding watchdog Health Cuts Hurt says the money should have been spent on patients.

Spokesperson Heather Carter, a former health board member, says she is uncomfortable with the large amounts of money that is spent on sending members overseas.

"I can understand that he should have a good send-off.

"But you do have to ask yourself why they would be spending so much money sending him to Paris ... when he's about to leave, and when people are cut off lists because (the board) can't afford a few dollars here or there."

However, the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists says patients were not affected by the money spent on Mr Davies.

Executive director Ian Powell says it was important to send an expert like Mr Davies to the forum. "If we are going to have a good understanding of quality systems and how best to provide quality patient care, then it's important that we participate in the international sharing of these experiences."

Mr Powell says Mr Davies has been the health system's most highly regarded public servant for years, and it was appropriate to give him a good send-off.