BASS Coast Health is not “in crisis”, according to the new Chief Executive Officer, Jan Child.
Ms Child was commenting on an article in the Sentinel-Times last week which reported on the departure of former CEO Veronica Jamison and board chair Peter Laydon within days of each other earlier this month.
In a statement this week Ms Child was keen to focus attention on the excellent standard of care delivered by “very skilled staff” at the health service, rather than the hospital’s financial woes or executive departures.
But she did say the health service had “robust plans” in place “to ensure our financial viability into the future”.
“We have a strong management team that is very committed to progressing the work to be done. We will need to make some decisions which will ensure our growth but we will do everything we can to ensure there is service growth to the community, and an increased focus on filling some of our service gaps.”
However, while the new CEO has sought to play down the impact of changes at the top, others at the hospital have expressed concern about the wholesale departure of senior management, the level of debt and the close involvement by the Health Department in the health service’s day-to-day operations.
They say several other senior staff members have also resigned at the same time including Chief Financial Officer Rick Chapman, due to leave this week, and People and Culture Manager, Terrie Seymour, whose resignation was effective immediately.
A personal friend of Ms Jamison, and the former secretary of the troubled No 5 Branch of the Health Services Union, Ms Seymour’s appointment in April 2015 followed the departure of Human Resources Manager, Shane Brown, and was highlighted in last year’s annual report as one of the achievements of the year, heralding “a new way of working” in a “values based culture”.
It is not known if Ms Jamison’s departure triggered Ms Seymour’s decision to leave.
In fact the only person left standing in the senior management team listed in the most-recent annual report is Director of Nursing and Midwifery Services, Debbie Rogers.
The former Director of Corporate Services Andrew Lowe, Director of Community Services Ward Street and Director of Medical Services Rick Lowen are all gone, as too are several others who filled these roles in the interim.
“I’m concerned that the turnover in senior management will make it more difficult for the health service to find good people,” said the staff member who phoned the ‘Sentinel’.
“The acting CEO has only been there for two weeks but hardly any of the other executive positions have been filled. With a Health Department delegate, Jim Fletcher, at board meetings and the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Frances Driver, taking a close interest in Wonthaggi, the health service is ripe for a takeover,” he claimed.
The whistle-blower also alleged that Ms Jamison’s partner was appointed to a senior position at the hospital during her 18-month tenure and remains in his role.
But Ms Child denied there was a problem with either nepotism or cronyism at the health service. She did however acknowledge there have been other departures and that a number of senior positions remained unfilled.
The exception is the Director Medical Services position which she said had been filled recently by Dr André Nel, a highly experienced medical officer.
Phillip Maddock is acting CFO.
“Merger is not on anyone’s agenda. I can completely rule that out,” Ms Child said.
She also denied that the Health Department was “bullying” senior management or staff at Wonthaggi or that it had been a mistake to merge with Bass Coast Community Health Service last year while hospital finances were unstable.
“It was a good decision in the long term to take on Bass Coast Community Health. What makes a vibrant health service is to have an integrated health service,” she said.
After posting a modest surplus of $66,000 four years ago, the health service run up annual deficits of $2.54m and $1.62m in subsequent years, blowing out to $3.178m last year following the merger with BCCHS.
It was noted in the annual report, for example, that Workcover costs went up from $293,451 to $432,171 as a result, while wages went up from $30.5m to $36.6m in the year.
“While there have been changes in management, many of the people who deliver an excellent standard of care at Wonthaggi have been in their roles for 20 years plus and that work is continuing. People in this industry move around all the time.
“We have the plans in place to recover from our deficit situation but the state of finances don’t detract from the level of care. The staff are still doing a good job and are frankly, they’re sick of reading about the health service’s finances in the paper.
“We still have a lot of work to do to build up to sub-regional status but we have the team that can do it,” she said.
Following the resignation of Veronica Jamison after some 18 months in the role, Jan Child has been appointed as the interim CEO by the BCH Board. She will remain in the position until a suitable CEO can be found, a proicess that is likely to take three months.
Ms. Child is a Registered Nurse and holds a Graduate Diploma Behavioural Sciences; Master’s in Public Health, and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. She is also a surveyor for the Australian Council of Healthcare Standards.
“Jan brings more than 30 years’ experience in public health services and has a comprehensive skillset that will strengthen the good work already underway at Bass Coast Health” according to out-going board chair Peter Laydon.
Not in ‘crisis’, says new hospital CEO