Hospital dispute comes to a head

Questions are being asked of Metro North board chairman Dr Paul Alexander.

Questions are being asked of Metro North board chairman Dr Paul Alexander. Source: News Corp Australia

A TOP dispute resolution specialist has been brought in to address continuing unrest between senior staff and their health board at two of Brisbane’s biggest hospitals.

Lawyer Michael Klug’s appointment follows months of turmoil within the highest ranks of the Metro North Hospital and Health Service, with about 20 senior executives either resigning, being sacked or suspended in the past two years.

CRISIS TALKS: Angry doctors at RBWH meet over board decisions

BOSS QUITS: Prince Charles Hospital boss Peter Tesar quits after three months

Professor Klug is expected to meet with senior staff at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital tomorrow to discuss their concerns.

The executive directors of both the RBWH and the Prince Charles Hospital have left their roles in the past six weeks, triggering a series of crisis forums and meetings among staff.

In September, Metro North chief executive Malcolm Stamp was suspended on full pay while the Crime and Corruption Commission investigates nepotism allegations.

The series of unrelated departures at the top of the health service has put the spotlight on the Metro North board and its chairman, Paul Alexander, a former Australian Defence Force surgeon-general.

In a joint email to staff late last week, Dr Alexander and Metro North’s acting chief executive, Terry Mehan, wrote: “We are working closely together to address and respond to your concerns and stabilise the leadership of our health service.

“Michael Klug AM has been appointed as an independent facilitator to improve independent engagement and resolve issues raised by staff.

“Michael is one of Australia’s most experienced negotiation and alternate dispute resolution specialists.”

Professor Klug lectures in dispute resolution at the Queensland University of Technology. He recently became a Member of the Order of Australia for significant contributions to dispute resolution, and to the community.

Instability at Metro North Health threatens to become a state election issue unless it can be resolved well before next year’s poll.

Opposition health spokeswoman Jo-Ann Miller said it was “astonishing” that such an “extraordinary” step as bringing in a dispute resolution expert was necessary to address the problems at Metro North.

She said if Health Minister Lawrence Springborg had acted when he was first made aware of the problems, such a move might not have been needed.

“The culture Mr Springborg has allowed to develop in Metro North between executives and frontline staff must be toxic if management needs outside help to talk to workers,” Ms Miller said.

A spokesman for Mr Springborg said Metro North’s performance delivering for patients was excellent.