The Beagle Editor, Your readers might be interested to learn it has now been a year since the community outcry at the "dismissal" of Bega orthopedic surgeon, Dr Chris Phoon. Our latest media release for your interest. organised crimes …
It was just a year ago, on the evening of Thursday, March 9th, that more than 500 people crammed the Bega Civic Centre to demonstrate the community’s unswerving support for the team of orthopaedic surgeons from the South East Regional Hospital (SERH), including the highly respected Dr Chris Phoon who, as head of the team had just been informed by the NSW Southern Local Health District that his service contract would not be renewed.
The community along the entire south coast erupted in anger at this news, knowing how
long it had taken to build the successful team under Dr Phoon’s leadership & deeply
frustrated by the refusal of the Local Health District or NSW Health to provide any reason for its decision.
As the local media took-up the issue & pressure started to mount on local member, Andrew Constance, to provide answers as to what was going-on, talk turned to the dysfunction that allegedly gripped the new hospital & the inability of the Local Health District or NSW Health to overcome the fundamental organisational & cultural problems impeding its successful operation.
The day before the public meeting, then Chair of the Local Health District, Ms Jenny
Symons had addressed a luncheon in Merimbula celebrating International Womens’ Day. Unfortunately Ms Simons was too busy to attend the public meeting at the Civic Centre the following evening.
While our politicians initially appeared slow to respond to the crisis that had engulfed the
provision of health services on the NSW far south coast, on the same day the local
member, Andrew Constance confirmed that a review of Orthopaedic Services at the SERH was to be conducted by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, while eight days later, the NSW Minister for Health, Brad Hazzard, announced an inquiry into the operation of the new hospital, to be led by Associate Professor Michael Reid, a former Director General of NSW Health & Queensland Health.
Two months later, on May 16th, the NSW Health Deputy Secretary Susan Pearce &
Southern NSW Local Health District Board Chair, Jenny Symons, stood outside the SERH & released the Reid Report, which confirmed the parlous state of the new hospitals’ management & the failure of the Local Health District to adequately direct the start-up.
While there was strong initial interest shown in the Reid Report, it wasn’t long before
attention returned to the fate of Dr Phoon.
By mid-July, with the Southern NSW Local Health District having confirmed that a copy of the draft report into Orthopaedic Services at the SERH had been handed to Dr Phoon for review a month earlier, Local Health District Board member, Russell Fitzpatrick, was calling for Dr Phoon to release the report.
And then, at the beginning of August, with local member Andrew Constance publicly
expressing a loss in confidence in the Local Health District, both the Chair, Jenny Symons, & the CEO, Janet Compton, were out; with no explanation. And still no resolution of the Dr Phoon scandal.
A further three months elapsed before the Local Health District poked the south coast
community in the eye yet again when it announced on November 11th, 2017 that it had
reached an amicable agreement with Dr Phoon & that he would not be returning to the
Orthodaedic Services unit at the SERH.
While the long-suffering public has no idea how much it cost them for the Local Health
District & NSW Health to rid themselves of Dr Phoon, a dreadful stone in its shoe, it was
obvious to even the most casual onlooker that getting rid of him was always their only
His crime? Simply to challenge the primacy of the health bureaucracy; something that not even the Minister for Health or the NSW government would appear ready to attempt.
But, of course, 12 months ago, a review into Orthopaedic Services at the SERH had been commissioned. We know that a preliminary report was completed & passed to Dr Phoon eight months ago in June, but nothing has been said about it since.
The BVSRRA naturally expected that the Orthopaedic Services Review would be
completed just as the Reid Report was completed in response to the review of the SERH.
The Reid Report into the operation of the entire SERH took two months to complete. It
seems that the review into Orthopaedic Services, a significantly smaller task on the face of it, is taking at least six times longer & we still don’t have the benefit of its findings.
So, what to make of the Local Health District’s response to the BVSRRA’s GIPA Application made in December, 2017, where they have declared that they don’t have it; notwithstanding that it was commissioned by its former CEO, Janet Compton 10 months before?
So, where is it? Who has it? When will we see it (we are hoping the Minister for Health will tell us)?
Or is the fact that Dr Phoon has gone & the report hasn’t been released, evidence that it
was always only intended to be used as a weapon to persuade him to move on & never
intended to see the light of day unless he refused to budge?
Regardless of the fate suffered by Dr Phoon, some other things are certain, including that Orthopaedic Services at the SERH have not benefited from any action taken by the
Southern NSW Health District or the Minister for Health, any more than have patients of
those services, & still no explanation as to why Dr Phoon had to go & who was really
responsible for organising this crime against our community.
Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association