A report from the front line

Well, I wasn’t able to get to the public meeting last night but I’ve already had a couple of reports from attendees this morning.

It seems it was the biggest town meeting that anyone can remember – even those who have always lived here. The footy hall was filled to overflowing with most people standing. While the mood of the audience was angry, it was not nasty. The hospital board was not represented at the meeting and no senior management personnel attended.  Just as well, I think. But it was reported that an email had been sent to all hospital staff warning that if they spoke at the meeting they would be faced with immediate dismissal. I can’t believe that was true!

Presumably in an attempt to get the meeting off to a positive start, Cindy McLeish invited the attendees to comment on what were the good things about the hospital. “Everything except the board and the CEO!” was the first contribution from the floor. Then the microphone was passed around so that the community could explain the problems. Bullying and harassment were common themes. Staff morale at rock bottom. Sackings for trivial reasons. Hit lists of staff for removal. Volunteers leaving, especially the service clubs. Agency nurses replacing our local nurses. There were some terrible tales.

Our two local doctors, Rob Peterson and Eliot Jarman, both made impassioned speeches about the decline in the morale at the hospital and the poor general tone of the place. (And I notice that a previous Seymour doctor,  Andrew Stlutzkin, has a letter in today’s Telegraph calling for the board to be sacked.)

A previous board member said that he had stepped down from the board because the CEO controlled the board and did not provide sufficient operational information to enable the board to have a clear idea of what was going on. It was reported to the meeting that of the four people who took complaints to Cindy McLeish, three had had their employment at the hospital terminated.

The previous CEO, Doreen Power, was blamed for much of problems at the hospital and it is interesting to note that she has now gone on to run a community health service in Whittlesea. Apparently the irony of that appointment was lost on the audience – the notion of  ‘community’ was clearly not one she subscribed to.

I understand that another interesting bit of information provided to the meeting was the report of an investigation into the hospital management that was ordered by the previous government. Because the report was submitted to the government just before the elections, it has not been acted upon. Our local member of parliament apparently knew nothing about it.  Strange.

When I asked what action had been decided on, it seems not much. A motion from the floor calling for the board to be removed and an administrator put in to get the organisation back onto an acceptable path was seconded but despite many requests for the motion to be put, Cindy McLeish declined to do so. Instead she undertook to take the community’s concerns to the board and – well, it seems most people were not sure what would happen then. Ms McLeish also placed a lot of faith in the government-appointed delegate now on the board. He was previously CEO of Mercy Hospital and he is expected to sort things out and report to the Minister for Health on progress.

Well, let’s see what happens.

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