Thursday, April 7, 2022

Barry Soper: Why there was no point sticking around for Ashley Bloomfield

Sounding like the politician he's become, the country's most famous public servant Ashley Bloomfield on Wednesday announced he was standing aside to spend more time with his family.

But like all announcements of that sort, there's much more to it than that.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who at times privately had a fractious relationship with the Covid-19 custodian, laid it on with a trowel, saying she had come to know the director general of health probably better than any other public servant, and describing him as a true servant of the public.

Bloomfield's resignation would have come as no surprise to Ardern though - it is understood she had been privately confiding, since late last year, that he'd be unlikely to serve out his contract which ends midway through next year.

Such observations also wouldn't have come as a surprise to those she talked to.

Bloomfield was being done out of a job. If he had stuck around, he would have ended this year as a diminished general with few to direct - the guts of his job was disappearing with the Beehive doing away with the 20 District Health Boards (DHBs) and replacing them with the new Health New Zealand and the Māori Health Authority.

Their new bosses don't have a patch on Bloomfield's academic or practical background experience but they appeal to Ardern and that's important as she reshapes the public service.

The new head honchos in health are both middle-aged women, conveniently coming from demographics with the worst health outcomes, up until now.

New Zealand-born Samoan Margie Apa, chief executive of Counties Manukau Health, will take over the big role at Health NZ. Riana Manuel, a former nurse who worked her way up through the Māori healthcare ranks, takes over the other body.

They'll be living in what will be a Wellington powerhouse apparently, planning to become flatmates in the capital.

It's likely Bloomfield, a man who was privately described by those in the know as a "control freak", could see the rug being pulled from beneath him with the remnants he'd be left with resembling little more than a policy shop. He'd even lose control of the Covid calamity which gave him a profile that few other public servants have managed to achieve.

For Bloomfield, there was no point sticking around. At least he'll be better-known and more qualified on the job market than the other 19 Health Board CEOs who will also soon be looking for work.

Barry Soper, the political editor at Newstalk ZB, is one of the country’s most experienced political broadcast journalists.


DeeM said...

Poor old Ashley looks like he's aged 10 years in the last 2.
Maybe he'll write his Covid memoirs and dump all over Ardern. Tell us how "kind and caring" she really was.
Of course. it will be banned from all good bookshops and labelled "disinformation".

PeterB said...

I suppose he'll get a knighthood now, New Zealanders seem addicted to these baubels. As for the replacements, well you've said it all; Maori and Pacifica are the prerequisites for any job now. The Maorification of our society continues at breakneck speed.

Keith Hislop said...

That woman has made sure a very respected health professiibal has seen his job deystroyed and hopefully he can secure an international appointment where he will be respected. Once again N Z looses one of the best in the world!! Roll on madam as you destroy our country but make it quick as you will probably be redundant next year. Whoopee!!!

Terry Morrissey said...

I'm sure we will be no worse off without him as there is no evidence that he has even made any attempt to prevent the destruction of the Health Ministry. Any bureaucrat that does not fight for his department has either been bought, or is not worthy of the position. To allow high profile positions to be filled by people without medical knowledge cannot be justified by any reason other than nepotism, cronyism or maybe just plain racism.
So I wish him luck but I would not consult him.