The Southern NSW Local Health District is shedding little light on CEO Janet Compton’s departure.
Nor will Health Minister Brad Hazzard directly say why Ms Compton and Board chairman Jenny Symons were removed.
“There have obviously been some challenges in the local health area and these changes will provide a clean slate to move forward and rewrite community involvement in the Local Health District, “ Mr Hazzard said in a statement late Thursday.
He told the Bega District News that his “earnest message” to the board members and new executive was to “work closely with the community, clinicians and clinical staff and value their contribution.”
“Listening is a good start, and engagement is a good outcome,” he said.
Bega MP Andrew Constance also told his local newspaper that the region “desperately needed a fresh start.”
However five senior executives and four hospital managers have left during Ms Compton’s time. They include the executive directors of clinical operations, medical services, finance, clinical governance and the director of community health.
A source told the Goulburn Post of a “toxic work environment.”
“That is actually an understatement. I can’t find words to describe it,” the person said.
In August, 2015 Ms Compton resigned suddenly as Melbourne Hospital’s CEO amid government and community concerns about the facility’s performance.
Board member and former Goulburn Mulwaree Mayor, Geoff Kettle said it was “no secret there had been problems within the (Southern NSW Local) Health District” for some time.
“The Minister has chosen to make changes...and I think those changes will push the reset button on providing good quality health services to Goulburn, surety of health care, staff wellbeing and surety to the community of ongoing cooperation,” he said.
Mr Kettle would not name specific problems but said it was a combination of factors. His concerns centred on a “proper communication strategy” for Goulburn Base Hospital’s upgrade. The community also called for more consultation last year, particularly on the Bourke Street Health Service.
Mr Hazzard has appointed Julie Mooney as acting CEO and Dr Allan Hawke as Board chairman. Ms Mooney started her career as a nurse at Kenmore Hospital and has worked with the Health District for 38 years, more recently as the executive director of nursing and midwifery.
Dr Hawke was chief of staff to former Prime Minister Paul Keating and has a long career in public administration. He has led 21 major independent reviews for the Federal, ACT, NSW, Northern Territory and Victorian governments and was chancellor of the Australian National University for three years. He is chairman of the Canberra Raiders, a director of Datacom and Lockheed Martin Australia, president of ACT Barnados and a member of the CEDA (Committee for Economic Development Australia) Board of Governors.
“Dr Hawke’s impressive record in public administration, along with his local knowledge, made him the obvious choice to steer SNSWLHD’s Board in a new direction, which will prioritise community involvement and listening to community concerns,” Mr Hazzard said.
Mr Kettle said the Board met in Bega on Friday but Dr Hawke was not there.
“We went through financial reports and there was an open discussion about recent events,” he said.
Mr Kettle stressed there was no issue with the Health District’s financial performance and there would be no impact on Goulburn Base Hospital’s redevelopment as a result of Ms Compton’s departure.
A Health District spokesman also stressed this point, saying it would “continue with extensive consultation with the local community.”
Meantime, NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association general secretary Brett Holmes said while the administrative “shake-up” was intended to send a message of change, the state government maintained its opposition to staff to patient ratios.
“Until the government changes its view on ratios, no real progress can be expected. A new CEO and Board chairperson will continue to face the same budget decisions,” he said.