A “toxic and dysfunctional culture” amongst senior public servants running Tasmania’s health service is affecting patient care, an inquiry has heard.
Doctors have given evidence at the Launceston hearings of an inquiry into Tasmania’s acute health services.
Australian Medical Association (AMA) Tasmania president Stuart Day told the inquiry the culture of the Tasmanian Health Service (THS) executive was “toxic and dysfunctional”.
“It is top heavy and urgently needs to be cut back to size,” he said.
“We believe that the current bureaucracy is diverting resources from our hospitals, and thus patient care.
“Unfortunately our view is that the THS governing council are out of touch with the operational hospital reality.
“They appear to have an extremely distorted and overly optimistic impression of what is happening in Tasmania’s hospitals.”
Dr Day told the inquiry the AMA was receiving increasing reports of dysfunction.
“This is having a debilitating effect on the ability of our hospitals to get on with the job,” he said.
“The person they put in to lead that, driving that vision was just wrong. Hobart had no executive, no real CEO and they just knocked down half their hospital
“The size of the THS executive probably needs to be shrunk to a much fewer people, put that money back into decent people running on the ground.”
Relationship with doctors on track: Minister
Health Minister Michael Ferguson told the inquiry he had a “fantastic relationship” with the AMA, but he failed to directly address the organisation’s concerns about a toxic culture.
“[The relationship] has yielded incredible positive outcomes for our state,” he said.
“Unfortunately it’s the case in life that despite a professional working relationship … you tend to hear about the disagreements or the areas where there are outstanding issues and challenges.”
Mr Ferguson hinted at management changes for hospitals in the north and north-west.
“I’m happy to write and submit in the usual way that I can show you the way in which we have been able to implement that in the south and how we will progressively do so in the north in a way that is fit for purpose locally,” he said.
Mr Ferguson has promised to release a long-awaited report into senior management and the rollout of beds.
“I’ve asked the new bed implementation team to prepare a summary for public release, including progress on opening of the 120 additional beds and treatment recliners, as well as key findings from the work undertaken by Deloitte,” he said.
Lack of crisis accommodation
Nursing director of Women and Child Services at the LGH Janette Tonks told the inquiry there was a lack of crisis accommodation.
“In the last six months we’ve had three adolescents that have been housed with us because there isn’t any other crisis accommodation for them and it’s been the safest place,” she said.
“Three in the last few months is extreme, I would have thought.”
Ms Tonks said she wanted to see more funding for phase two of the paediatric mental health ward, which included seven beds.
“The age groups can be mixed and it can be quite upsetting for some of the younger children and families if we’ve got mental health patients who are particularly noisy and disruptive.”