CEO pay rises show health system is upside down



This week, more proof  that our health system is tipped completely upside down has punched me in the guts on a day where it truly hits where it hurts.

“Southern DHB chief executive Carole Heatly moved from the $390,000 to $399,999 bracket to between $500,000 and $509,999 – an increase of $110,000, or 27.8 per cent.” 


I’m lying on the couch in some serious pain – again – knowing there is absolutely no point in going down to ED, or even my GP sending me down to the hospital to see a specialist. Why?  Because there’s no doctors who even know what’s wrong with me (EDS – genetic disorder – rare, but relatively common – 1 in 2,500) here and medical staff are so under-resourced they don’t even have time to Google it, let alone it’s literally hundreds of common co-morbid conditions. I’ll wait hours in uncomfortable chairs causing more pain, have an xray which never shows up anything because it’s not the right diagnostic test and they don’t have the equipment to do the ones which will, and be booted out 3 hrs later with ‘we dunno’ for a diagnosis and the painkillers I’m already on as the solution. A dilemma people with EDS face regularly.

The article linked above says it well: “there is generally poor knowledge about EDS among practitioners. Many sufferers of EDS have psychological difficulties as a result of frustration with the medical system and the socially inconvenient combination of appearing normal while being in severe pain.” We know there is no choice but to stay home and try to ride it out. That’s what I’m doing today. Sometimes it resolves itself, and sometimes it ends up a tragedy – whether there’s hospital treatment or not, thanks to the level of ignorance – like the 17 times in 9 months I was in ED and got the above treatment before a visiting specialist clicked and I had to have an emergency hysterectomy within 12 hours at 24 years old. And like the time an online friend with EDS died because she couldn’t face the ignorance one more time.

So to see this come out today really has me angry. Bitter even. But when I feel this way, I write blogs, because I know I am not alone in not having the best practice level of care I deserve because I am a non-straightforward high user of our health system.

I’m only one of tens of thousands of Kiwi’s with chronic medical issues who have the above experience in some way on a frequent basis, many in the SDHB catchment. And our realities matter, because we are the ones who are ‘served’ by this huge and broken system.

Our government & DHB’s priorities are upside down.

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The Southern District Health Board has been in deficit for many, many years. Only last July, the CEO was ‘clamp[ing] down on spending amid fears a ballooning deficit could threaten chances of building a new hospital.’ They are laying off their kitchen staff and choosing to serve patients broccoli from Hong Kong etc flown from up north. Everything but the CEO’s wage is about ‘efficiencies’. They are facing one of the worst plunges in funding  yet – ”The impact on Southern will be greater than the impact on other DHBs because of population-based funding.” They still lack specialists in many crucial areas and rely too heavily on locums, with senior specialists despairing at what an unworkable unbearable mess their workplace has become.

Of course it is not just the SDHB whose CEO’s salaries are spiking – again. I am aware that nurses and health care assistants around NZ are at breaking point, wanting to leave the profession they love. Among other issues, many nurses are unable to do basic patients cares such as turning patients, showering, talking to them and teeth brushing – because they are constantly so stretched and under staffed. At least one hospital is currently operating on a ‘no-replace’ basis.

I respectfully put it out there that these CEO pay-rises are an absolute slap in the face for the people in the health system who that very system is meant to be about – the patients, who experience sub-optimal care when they most need the best care.  It is also deeply unfair to the over-stretched, under-resourced and underpaid workforce who care for these patients and who have received effective wage-losses in the last few years.  The Association of Salaried Medical Professionals put out a press release yesterday calling the pay-rises contemptuous to frontline hospital staff. I agree.  I do not see myself as a victim of doctors and nurses when I receive sub-optimal care. The vast majority would give optimal care to all of their patients if they were only able to. No – it is the system which is failing us all.

Please Ministry of Health, start putting us first, and frontline staff second. We are the ones who matter most.


  1. Hasn’t this government done an amazing job of suppressing any information that may reveal the reality and extent of their budget cutting to the health sector. However CEO’s will say and do whatever National want because the way the remuneration is set up means they will never ever bite the hand that feeds them and that is the precise intention of these bribes. And they are now underway setting that system up in the education sector as well. Expect less resistance from senior teachers and principals as this beds in.

    Ironically Annette King revealed the true cuts with the budget last year but otherwise it didn’t rate a mention and the media certainly didn’t care.

    That you are now conditioned to not seek care and help is another “achievement” of this government, just like social welfare, don’t even think about going there (so the registered unemployed drop), just like using the police, their budget has been axed so what’s the point and just like voting because we are constantly told for 3 years National will romp home. All lies!

    • Thanks for that, I already have my diagnosis, and my testosterone levels are fine, but funny you bring that up because a friend has been diagnosed with another rare genetic disorder that involves testosterone deficiencies, and it has taken 30 years to figure out what’s up with them.

  2. This example is a perfect microcosm of what is happening across society today… I think we are heading towards becoming a state of America the way we are going.

  3. The guy who pretends to be PM is really the CEO of a consortium of American Multi Nationals, that’s why he never knows anything, hasn’t read a report. hasn’t spoken to the person concerned. Not his job. Probably why he can donate his salary to charity – International CEO’s salary is better.

    • Please do not perpetuate this fallacy about JK and his salary.

      He once said he donates a substantial amount of his salary to charity.

      He did not give exact amounts. A “substantial amount” in the opinion of JK could be sweet FA in proportion to what he earns.

  4. Admin workers in DHBs have recently received a 0.7% pay increase – for me it amounts to about $7 a week before tax (in the hand about enough for a cup of coffee) and the negotiators battled to get that. So to hear that a CEO gets 27.8% really is sickening.

  5. If this CEO has received a pay rise – on what grounds?

    What’s the benchmark and to what degree has it been surpassed by this person? When was the last rush of dollars to the bank account?

    By comparison, how do they rate with those receiving the top pay level in this area? Do we know?

    Does anyone survey the poorly-served and long tail of delayed, deferred and dumped to see how ‘satisfied’ they are with the ‘service’? If not – why not? (It’s the Big Thing for teachers: why not for CEOs?)

    Which political party is prepared to chomp the hands of the Higher Salaries people and call for a massive overhaul of this skewed system? And stay on message until fairness is re-instated?

    Are we actually measuring the correct indicators for performance excellence?

    “I respectfully put it out there” – please don’t Rachael. It encourages them. It isn’t as if they were forced into the work they’ve chosen, and the toxic byzantine work environment they’ve created for the misery of the users.

    It’s all working just as it’s meant to. Unfortunately.

  6. These CEO’s are the some ones that have no existing policy for assisting the disabled now, as I asked for assistance from the Ministry of health and they wrote to me and apologised as they do not have any assistance programs for the disabled now, and the letter simply advised me to go to the Ombudsman.

    National have gutted the Health system and are preparing it for privatisation we reckon.

    Why else are they using these CEO’s that are morally corrupt and such high paid “hired guns”?

    • Andrea’s right …and these bastards are so far up their own asses that they believe they are worth these obscene salaries and their obscene pay rises, whilst they suck the life out of whats left of our Health System….it is a total disgrace..when is this country’s people going to wake up and seriously fight back ..some of us want our country back…we need to fight for it…

      • I agree with every word you spit out in anger and frustration at these profiteering selfish bastards. Do you know of any hackers that could get into their accounts, that would hurt them very nicely ta.

  7. I challenge any CEO of any hospital to explain and justify their raise in salary. To go from $390,000 to $500,000+, yes I believe everybody has the right to question such an increase in salary. So come on all you CEO’s out there, let’s see you grow some balls and show some honesty and honour, and explain how, why and with justification, your high rolling salaries over the now inequality situation in the life of the general public? Hope you all end up bankrupt and lose everything.

    Disrespectfully yours
    Trevor Mills.

    Or are you all too embarrassed because you’ve been caught with your pants around your ankles?

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