Page 638 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 24 February 2010
They were harrowing stories that we were hearing, but then we also had the stories about systemic cultural issues. I think Dr Foote summed it up very well in terms of the minister’s response to this and perhaps the attitude that pervades from the minister in her office, because this is about leadership. Dr Foote says:
But I am concerned that there seems to be this ongoing view from the minister that there is nothing wrong and that you guys are all exaggerating. My concern is that if nothing is done there will continue to be an exodus of senior staff from there and that the safety of the place and particular training of the next generation of doctors will significantly deteriorate.
For all the talk about it being Jeremy Hanson who is raising these concerns and how terrible it is that he is raising them, these concerns did not originate from Jeremy Hanson. The concerns that went to air on the ABC were not made up by the opposition. When doctors and doctor representatives come forward, when staff members go on radio—and we will get to that—and raise these concerns, there is a lot that goes before that for people to get to the position where they are prepared to raise some of those concerns publicly. We have had a number of emails since then, and I hope the government is receiving them as well. We have some where they say, “Well, we simply can’t be identified because we’re concerned about the repercussions.”
Dr Foote went on to say that some of Ms Gallagher’s comments were uncalled for. He said Ms Gallagher challenged the doctors to back up their claims by saying:
If there is an issue let’s deal with it. But if there aren’t any issues that can be substantiated, stop throwing stones and stop damaging the unit.
So the first instinct was to attack. No wonder there are concerns about coming forward if the first thing the minister does and her first instinct is to attack those people who are raising the concerns.
Dr Foote is also concerned that the resignations at Canberra Hospital have lessened the ability to cope in an emergency. There is less expertise and fewer senior doctors than 12 months ago. He said that if things are corrected it will not affect mothers and babies, but that if they continue, they have a potential to lead to problems. The heart of this matter is not about doctor politics; it is not about whether you are in favour of one group or another within the health system; it is about what poor workplace culture can lead to in a hospital environment. That is what Dr Foote is raising.
We heard it from Michael on radio station Triple 6. Michael says he works with obstetricians across Canberra and considers himself a friend of the registrars who have recently left. He said:
Probably every single one of the registrars has been approached by people from large metropolitan hospitals elsewhere and been offered work because they’re aware the situation down in Canberra had become so toxic.
So we get these concerns from staff, concerns from patients, concerns from senior doctors—it is not the opposition making up these concerns. The concerns are