EDITORIAL: People will always be core of our hospital, pay them attention

Orthopaedic surgeons Chris Phoon and Matthew Nott

Orthopaedic surgeons Chris Phoon and Matthew Nott

There’s a lot to digest in the report released on Tuesday into the operation and governance of the South East Regional Hospital.

Undoubtedly there will be more commentary and opinion over the course of coming days and weeks, but on initial reading it’s a damning report on our health system in the south-east.

Reviewers found not enough attention had been paid to “non-capital issues” – i.e. the people – when moving to the swanky new premises. They also reported “systemic and long-standing bullying and harassment”.

That in itself is a real cause for concern and needs to be rectified immediately.

We’ve heard previously of a “cultural problem” at the hospital and concerns with the hospital and district haemorrhaging staff. If bullying is playing any part of this situation, the community has a right to be concerned and ask questions of management and the board.

The reviewers found the local staff worked exceedingly hard to make the transition to the new building as seamless as possible, but they suffered under a lack of support and resources from higher up.

We’ve previously reported on lengthy wait times in emergency, and patients given the run-around, with confusion surrounding the role of Pambula’s health service after the SERH commissioning.

It’s easy to pass judgement from the outside, but it doesn’t take a medical or business management doctorate to see a larger building with increased services was going to need a real focus on personnel issues – both clinical and admin.

Almost as telling is what the report does not include.

While the NSW Health Secretary Elizabeth Koff was quick to point out on Tuesday the catalyst for the review included the public meeting in Bega, something must’ve been lost in translation because that meeting had at its core the dismissal of orthopaedic surgeon Chris Phoon. As it stands, this report makes no mention of specific personnel issues or Dr Phoon’s particulars. Indeed when asked the question on Tuesday, the Deputy Secretary of NSW Health Susan Pearce was firm in offering “no comment”.

Admittedly, the reviewers’ terms of reference do not include specific references to orthopaedic services, or indeed any department other than looking at service delivery in a holistic view. However, this is where a lot of community angst and anger remains directed.

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