THE unexpectedly large staff response to the review into Central Gippsland Health is causing delays in the process and the release of the final report.
A department of health spokesman told the Gippsland Times that the consultancy work was still ongoing, mainly because the number of staff interviewed had increased after complaints were made about the time limit for interviews.
He said it would be weeks before a timeline could be provided on the review’s progress.
At last months’ regional conference in Sale, Health Minister Jill Hennessy said about 10 per cent of the health service’s workforce had indicated that they would like to make a contribution to the review.
Ms Hennessy said she felt that the high number of staff who wanted to speak out indicted a “very strong appetite by staff members and former staff members to share their experiences”.
“I don’t want to assume that all of those are bad experiences, but certainly, the very strong interest in this process tells me that people have got something they feel they really want to say,” she said.
“I want to make sure they’ve got a safe space to say it, and I want the health service and the board and the government to be able to understand what those issues are, and to then identify what’s an appropriate response.”
Ms Hennessy said many of those who had wanted to contribute to the review were concerned about the potential ramifications of speaking out.
“A number of the approaches that have been made to me really have been made on the basis that their identity not be disclosed,” she said.
“So I’m happy to be as transparent as we possibly can in releasing whatever material we can, but what I’ll never do is compromise the confidentiality that particular staff members or former staff members have requested when they’ve got an issue they want to be raised about their workplace culture.”
Ms Hennessy said she made the decision to have an independent investigation, to provide staff with the opportunity to raise their issues and make sure they were investigated properly.
“I also think it’s important that in the course of those investigations, issues of culture, management culture, staff culture, staff morale, all of those issues actually count when we’re providing health services, that those are issues that are looked at, and the independent investigation will also canvas those issues,” she said.
“Ultimately, the board is responsible for the management of the hospital,” she said.
“I do have powers, as the Minister for Health, to intervene or to issue ministerial directions, and I made the decision, on the basis of approaches that were made to me by staff, that this required an independent investigation for the sake of fairness, and for the sake of staff having confidence in what might be identified or uncovered.”
Ms Hennessy also conceded that “a culture of ongoing learning” had to be built into the health system, and that the review process and report would identify any risks or issues so that changes could be implemented, if necessary.
The department has requested that the review look at things like turnover in a health service, which “might be indicators of poor culture”.
“There may also be people that have got terrific things to say about their experience in the workplace, but fundamentally, a culture where you have conflict, a culture where staff don’t feel confident in raising their concerns, is something that needs to be looked at, and that’s why I’ve initiated this review.”
Ms Hennessy said it was essential the community kept an open mind and “an open heart” about the experience.
“I don’t know what the results of this independent review will be, but I have a very strong and proud history of not shying away from problems, and I won’t do that, whatever the results of this independent review are.”