The war on Doctors in Queensland

Dear Colleagues,

On Monday I spoke again to our local media in Cairns about the culture of concealment in Queensland Health and how damaging this is for us and most of all for our patients and the Queeensland community.

 The Royal Commission in to the events in the Bundaberg Hospital cited this as a critical failing in those cases – I quote:

“The conduct of officers of Queensland Health, together with its strict approach to surgical budget targets enforced by penalties, led to similar practices in hospitals, especially with respect to complaints about quality of service and it also led to threats of reprisal in some cases. These caused suppression of complaints which ought to have been exposed earlier.

In my view it is an irresistible conclusion that there is a history of a culture of concealment within and pertaining to Queensland Health.”

As many of you know we had 2 dedicated specialists stood down here in Cairns for 10 weeks, immediately following a Courier Mail article quoting “senior doctors” expressing concerns about the management of a suspected Ebola patient.

This was an appalling over-reaction to a single newspaper article by a regime that is dedicated to concealment. The specialists have returned to work and the report (although heavily redacted) clearly indicates it was not the targeted specialists who were responsible for the vast majority of the article. By coincidence they had both been active during the Contract Dispute.

 Doctors should be aware that after the suspensions were announced, the Department of Health (DoH) in Brisbane announced a Health Service Inquiry and took control of the process and therefore the duration of the suspensions. So much for “local control”.

It is hardly surprising that any differences of opinion relating to Ebola management had not been resolved. The report found that 9 September DoH guidelines were only circulated to ED staff on 8 October – the day before the patient was admitted – and that “locally adapted guidelines on Ebola Virus Disease management did not exist at the time of Patient A’s admission”.

But no criticism of the HHS could be tolerated.

 So the question is – after contracts that asked us to put the “business of the health service” above patient care, after an attempt to get rid of our right to unfair dismissal are we now going to accept that speaking up will result in automatic suspension or dismissal?

Certainly doctors are suffering because of this terrible culture but also our patients and the people we work with.

Hundreds of people went without the specialist care they could have had last year because of the government’s focus on advertising instead of delivering health care.

I am taking this time to speak out and say we can expect better.

We should be encouraged to have a lively debate about how best to deliver health care to our community and to be empowered as the leaders of medical teams in our community and workplaces.

We have been under attack since before the contracts were mooted in 2013 and right now we have an opportunity to speak out.

I was inspired by the messages from Dr Chris Davis, a former colleague, who has stood up and spoken out demonstrating the best of ethical values.

Let’s all be inspired by his example and make that commitment to each other.

I will fight against the Culture of Concealment, and I ask you all to do the same.

Get involved in the Together campaign for a better Queensland – email to find out what is happening in your area.

In union,

Dr Sandy Donald
Together Delegate – SMO Cairns

 PS: Our “contracts advisory committee” has yet to meet, despite our continuous requests to have it do so. The DG is clearly not interested in hearing from us about our issues with the contracts, and unfortunately that speaks volumes as to  how useful this forum may end up being.