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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 13 Hansard (Wednesday, 28 November 2018) . . Page.. 4920 ..


By these standards, Minister Fitzharris has failed. She has failed her own test. She has failed to set clear priorities for health on issues such as health culture and infrastructure, and she has failed to articulate to the community or to even understand what the community wants from a health system.

What the minister has done, in contrast, is create huge uncertainties within ACT Health and the wider community. Since March ACT Health has seen four bosses: Ms Feely, Mr De’Ath, Ms Anderson for three days, and Ms McDonald. And we know that Ms McDonald will only be here for six months, which means that we really do not have a clear plan for the future of the Canberra Hospital. By this time next year ACT Health and the hospital system will have had a fifth boss, because we will need to have a new CEO for Canberra Health Services, who will have to start from scratch. This is not setting clear priorities for health.

This minister’s failure of leadership is reflected in the lack of progress on such key issues as infrastructure, maintenance of existing facilities and, more importantly, health culture. As recently as last Sunday it was revealed that the ACT Health clinical culture committee had not developed a statement of desired culture in ACT Health, three years after a consultant’s report recommended that they do so, and even though they had been working on this for three years. The Minister for Health and Wellbeing has failed to show leadership on this issue. She has talked repeatedly about zero tolerance for bullying, and respectful pathways, but she has done little to turn these nice words into deeds. It also shows the problems with reports that are not publicly released. Staff can simply stonewall and wait until a new minister, a new CEO or a new director of ACT Health comes along, and the whole system is shown up again.

That is why the opposition and medical groups such as the AMA and the Australian Salaried Medical Officers called for an inquiry under the Inquiries Act into ACT Health culture. What we have in its place, and what the minister touted, amongst other things, in her press release that she put out yesterday to show how in touch she was, was what she called an independent review of workplace culture. But we have to remember that, first of all, that is not a properly established and independent review. It is a review that she was brought to kicking and screaming, and it is a review that is set up to fail. There are no clear legal mechanisms in place to protect people who would give evidence about bullying and harassment and, as a result, there is a reluctance by people to tell their stories for fear of reprisals. So the government’s review will be set up to fail.

What is worse, the staff have been told that the Reid review will do little more than collect information and data in relation to culture. Why would staff risk reprisals by telling their story to a review panel which is only a data-collecting exercise? I fear that the Reid review will end up sitting in a library, gathering dust, because there is no ministerial will or leadership to improve health culture.

Health culture is not only a problem here in the ACT, as recent publications, including articles in the Medical Journal of Australia, show, but here in the ACT it is our responsibility, or, more precisely, Minister Fitzharris’s responsibility, to ensure that we have a good culture. Workplace bullying in hospitals seems to be rife across the


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