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nothing to see here - the Bega Hospital review


Dear Beagle Editor and Beagle readers,

So, NSW Health Deputy Secretary Susan Pearce announced the arrival of a “new era” in the delivery of health services at Bega’s South East Regional Hospital (SERH) on Tuesday.

Ms Pearce was speaking to the just released report on the review into the operation & management of the SERH conducted by Highlands Health Consulting.

The report made for interesting reading, not just for the way it recounted the history of how the dysfunctional culture at SERH came about, but for the methodology it used to “take the pulse” of the institution by assessing its compliance with its stated values of “Collaboration, Openness, Respect & Empowerment”, before confirming that they amounted to nothing more than empty words at the SERH.

Notwithstanding the long-standing dysfunction in the management of health services in the region identified in the report & clearly evidenced more recently at the SERH, Ms Pearce was keen for everyone to forget about the past & “move on”.

When asked about planned responses to specific management deficiencies identified in the report, including evidence of a culture of systemic bullying, harassment & intimidation, Ms Pearce helpfully suggested that:

“I don’t know that blaming is helpful and not what this report is seeking to do.”

While apportioning “blame”, as Ms Pearce so eloquently put it, might not be helpful for those responsible for this management catastrophe, those on the receiving end of the abuse, including Dr Chris Phoon, might well have a different view.

It’s called “accountability” Ms Pearce; not “blame”.

So what does the report say about “accountability”?

Well, very little as it turns-out.

For all the “consultant speak” about leadership & a 10 point plan to build a new culture for the future, the word “accountability” is mentioned just once in the 33 page, 8,500 word report, which the Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association (BVSRRA) believes it is a clear indication of the importance attached to that particular management “value”.

Indeed, the fact that “accountability” is not one of the core “values” of our regional health service is not only emblematic of its dysfunctional culture, but also a key driver of that culture.

The fact that the core values allegedly embraced by the regional health service are identical to the values embraced by NSW Health succeeds only in highlighting the fact that the same dysfunctional organisation culture extends way beyond our region.

The BVSRRA believes that the Highland report is “fit for purpose”, accepting that its primary purpose is to explain-away & excuse the failings of NSW Health, its political masters & bureaucratic servants to provide a world class health service that we can all be proud of; not least by those confronting the greatest challenge on the front line of patient care.

The BVSRRA does not think that a 10 point plan will solve any of the problems so evident within NSW Health, in particular at a senior management level, unless it is accompanied by an honest admission that senior NSW Health management, the Board of the Local Area Health Service & our political representatives have all failed our community.

And the BVSRRA would like to remind everyone that the stated reason given by NSW Health management for not renewing the contract of orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Chris Phoon, was his alleged failure to embrace the “values” it espoused … the same “values” it turns out that the hypocrites themselves not only failed to display, but cannot begin to understand.

If NSW Health management is not big enough, not honest enough … if it is so bereft of integrity & decency … if it really has so little regard for its people & for the communities it supposedly exists to protect, that it can’t immediately make right the dreadful injustice it has perpetrated against Dr Chris Phoon & his family, then surely nothing will really change & it will only be a matter of time before we pass this way again. John Richardson Secretary/Treasurer Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association


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