Wanganui Chronicle, Aotearoa/New Zealand
DHB backs off on TPP letter
By Melissa Wishart
19 September 2015
The Whanganui District Health Board has acknowledged a letter sent to Dr Chris Cresswell expressing concerns over his views on the Trans-Pacific Partnership was "inappropriate", the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists says.
Association executive director Ian Powell said a meeting between Dr Cresswell and health board management following last week’s anti-TPP protest was "constructive" and involved a "useful exchanging of views".
"The DHB acknowledged the letter they sent to Dr Cresswell was inappropriate," Mr Powell told the Chronicle yesterday.
He said the association was "confident" no disciplinary action would be taken against Dr Cresswell who was arrested last Friday when he climbed on top of the car of Whanganui MP Chester Borrows during a rally against the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The protest was held during a visit by Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, who had been travelling in Mr Borrows’ car during the day.
After being arrested Dr Cresswell was let off with a warning. He received a letter this week from the Whanganui District Health Board asking him to attend a meeting to discuss concerns over his "recent views" as expressed in the Chronicle front-page report of the incident.
Dr Cresswell, who was dressed in scrubs and a stethoscope during the protest, told the Chronicle he wanted to emphasise that doctors were against the trade deal because it could affect the cost of medicine.
Health board Chief Medical Officer Frank Rawlinson said he did not wish to challenge Dr Cresswell’s views, "but rather the way in which he chose to express them".
Mr Powell, however, said the letter referred explicitly to his "views" and made no mention of actions, adding: "I think that the outcry that’s followed encouraged them to rethink the position."
He said the process had been "very stressful" for Dr Cresswell who, despite being a "resilient" and "positive" person, had been "put through the wringer".
Dr Cresswell was "disappointed" it ever occurred in the first place, Mr Powell said.
Meanwhile, a retired Wanganui doctor who was involved in protests in 1980 has also spoken out against the meeting.
Dr Jonathan Hartfield, a former specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist at Whanganui Hospital who protested against nuclear-powered ships visiting New Zealand more than three decades ago, said there was a time when the Whanganui District Health Board was "a little less schoolmasterish".
He was saddened when he heard Dr Cresswell was to have "a ticking off from headmaster".
While Dr Hartfield had not been arrested for protesting, he said he was impressed by how Dr Cresswell had taken off his shoes before climbing on the car, and said he was "helped" down by police in a "very nice" manner.
"I really don’t like Dr Cresswell being treated like a naughty schoolboy," Dr Hartfield said.
During his time protesting against nuclear-powered ships, neither the health board, medical superintendent nor his colleagues objected to his actions.
"The board were content to let the staff be involved in controversial things," he said.
Dr Rawlinson said the health board did not want to add anything to its earlier statement.