Health Minister denies throwing public servants under bus over Middlemore Hospital

Health Minister denies throwing public servants under bus over Middlemore Hospital
Photo credit: Newshub

A National MP says Health Minister David Clark is ignoring a public servant who feels his reputation has been damaged by the fallout over Middlemore Hospital.

Several buildings at the hospital, located in south Auckland, have serious rot and mould problems, posing health risks to staff and patients.

National MP Jami-Lee Ross says the minister "threw hard working health professionals under the bus to protect himself, gagged them and then refused to front up when it was clear he had wronged them".

But Mr Clark says he hasn't placed blame on any public servants and instead the fault lies with the previous National Government.

Counties Manukau District Health Board chairman Rabin Rabindran received an apology from Mr Clark for "the position he put me in", according to an email supplied by National.

"I said that I have a good reputation but all this in the media is affecting that reputation. He kept apologising. I wish I could have recorded what he said," Mr Rabindran's email to colleagues says.

The email adds the Minister, "said I have acted respectfully and he wants to thank me for that and for not talking to the media".

Mr Ross said Mr Rabindran had repeatedly asked the Minister to correct claims that the DHB did not tell him about the extent issues at Middlemore, and to admit he made exaggerated claims.

Mr Clark said in a statement to Newshub: "It's clear Rabin Rabindran feels aggrieved over his departure from the Counties Manukau District Health Board - that's only natural. It's true he was acting chair for only a matter of months and the building issues at Middlemore developed well before that time.

"If he felt that he was somehow being blamed for those building issues then that's unfortunate. I have always been very clear where responsibility lay - with the previous Government which underfunded health for so long."

Mr Clark said he was concerned that when he visited the DHB in March, "the full range of building issues were not raised with me face to face".

"I have never denied that I was provided written material which included information about building issues but normally something as serious as rot and mould in the walls would be raised with me in person."

After sacking Mr Rabindran, the minister said he's focused on working with the new DHB leadership to resolve the problems at Middlemore.

Last week Newshub reported on a voicemail and emails that suggested Mr Clark was trying to stop staff from speaking out about Middlemore Hospital.

He denied he was trying to gag them, saying: "There were a lot of conversations happening through the media and that meant there wasn't clear communication about what was going on, and that's unhelpful."