Statement on ACT Health culture

Released 10/09/2018

As Minister for Health and Wellbeing I have been extremely clear that my priority is to insist upon a positive culture in the delivery of public health care in the ACT. There must be zero tolerance for bullying and harassment. I have outlined avenues staff can take to raise their concerns and have them addressed, as well as initiated an independent process for complaints with the Health Services Commissioner.

Canberra is lucky to be one of the healthiest communities in Australia, with high quality health care, and we need to ensure we are looking after our people within ACT Health as well as our patients.

As I said in March this year, over time it has become clear to me that the governance of ACT Health had let staff down for some time. Governance structures and processes to deal with inappropriate workplace behaviour were unclear, and people were not given the opportunity to lead. The initial Australian Council on Healthcare Standards (ACHS) accreditation report made this clear earlier this year.

However the final ACHS accreditation report handed down in August showed a marked improvement in the culture within ACT Health, and in particular at Canberra Hospital.

The ACHS final report was an independent evaluation of ACT Health services, and should be acknowledged as a clear indicator of how our health system is tracking. The ACHS report made a number of comments about a turnaround in ACT health’s culture, including:

Over the past few months the organisation has changed dramatically, implementing sustainable systems and processes that provide direction and strong governance from both a corporate and clinical governance perspective. The surveyors would like to acknowledge the extensive work done by the staff across ACT Health plus the leadership to achieve this result. They demonstrate commitment and focus to drive sustainable positive change in the culture of the organisation.

This is a clear and independent indication that things have greatly improved in recent months under the leadership of Director-General Michael De’Ath and the efforts of ACT Health staff across the board. ACT Health has turned a corner and I look forward to this good work continuing.

Building on the achievements noted by the ACHS accreditation process, I will also put a number of processes in place to deal with issues surrounding culture within ACT Health immediately.

I would like to thank stakeholders for their support on these issues as they talk to their members about how we can best address their concerns. I also appreciate the AMA (ACT) board for meeting with me over the weekend to discuss a way forward.

The processes I will put in place will include an independent review of the culture within ACT Health, and a Clinical Leadership Forum.

The independent review will be tasked with independently investigating and reporting on the culture and behavioural issues as they relate to ACT Health services. It will be chaired by an external eminent person and take six months to provide a final report and recommendations to government. Terms of reference are currently being developed for this inquiry and stakeholders will be included in their development.

The Clinical Leadership Forum will report to me. The Clinical Leadership Forum will include a range of representatives from across the Canberra Hospital, Calvary Public Hospital and broader ACT health services sector. The Forum will also provide an important mechanism for clinical leaders to advise on health services planning and infrastructure, clinical culture, and training and education.

Both mechanisms will align with, and maintain progress towards the separation of ACT Health on 1 October. The Director-General has already advanced significant work on the culture of both organisations.

Both of these important mechanisms will support staff to raise issues and have them addressed, and will ensure that privacy and confidentiality of individuals is upheld.

More detail including terms of reference on these two important processes will be finalised in the coming days. I look forward to updating the community.

Let me be clear, any behaviour that is not aligned with the values of ACT Health cannot continue.

I am establishing these two mechanisms today after discussion with a number of important stakeholders. As leaders in delivering public healthcare to our community we are all totally committed to delivering healthcare to the Canberra community.

There must be a mechanism for people to share their stories safely and privately and for ACT Health to learn from these. And there must be a mechanism to look forward, set the new standard and lead.

I look forward to finalising the details of both of these in the coming days and continuing to lead improvement in the delivery of public healthcare to our community.

People in our community want to know they can see a doctor when they need to, get the treatment they need and ongoing care and rehabilitation as required. I know the thousands of people who work in ACT Health want this to be their focus as well, and we need to look after them too.

- Statement ends -

Section: Meegan Fitzharris, MLA | Media Releases

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