Group 'stonewalled' over staffing concerns


June 18, 2019 - 252 views

Oamaru's community hospital action group says it has been "stonewalled'' as it raises concerns over an increasingly unsustainable staffing situation at Oamaru Hospital.

Waitaki Community Hospital Action Group chairwoman Janice Clayton said yesterday she knew of up to five experienced staff at the hospital who had resigned over the past couple of weeks, representing a "second wave'' of departures after staff left in the face of an organisational restructure proposed by Waitaki District Health Services.

"What we are dealing with at the moment is a stonewalling, hostile management and board ... locally,'' Dr Clayton said.

"You raise concerns with them and they are genuine, educated concerns, and they're backed by the people that are actually working in their hospital and they don't want to talk to you about it.

"They're saying 'there is no problem here, everything is fine. We're doing what we should be doing, and everything is going to be just fine, thank you'.

"Meanwhile, we're seeing the experienced people just disappear, all that institutional knowledge go.

"And on a daily basis I hear things that just make my hair stand on end.''

Dr Clayton worked at the hospital for a "couple of years'' until November when she left due to work conditions and the "way in which the organisation was operating''.

She acted as the interim chief executive at the hospital

between the departure of Robert Gonzales and the arrival of Ruth Kibble.

At the weekend, the action group issued a statement outlining "a perfectly circular merry-go-round of accountability''.

It was frustrated by a lack of accountability from the hospital, its shareholder, the Waitaki District Council, and its primary funder, the Southern District Health Board.

"These three organisations appear to be working together to deflect all community concerns.

"Each of the three deny there are any issues that they are responsible for, and each, in turn, refers all the community questions and concerns to the other two organisations to respond.''

Yesterday, the Otago Daily Times asked the three organisations to respond.

Only Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher responded before press time.

"I've done what I can, to the best of my knowledge, and I've been as forthcoming as I can be,'' Mr Kircher said. ``We take responsibility.''

He did not want to put the other organisations "on the spot'' but said concerns about contract matters should be referred to the district health board and operational matters should be referred to the hospital.

He had met with the group and outlined the council's relationship with the company that runs the hospital.

"We appoint the directors. The directors appoint the [chief executive]. The directors appoint one of themselves to be the chair. We have a statement of intent ... that sets out how they should be doing business.''

The Waitaki District Health Services Limited statement of intent, as published on the council website, includes 11 performance targets and measures including: "Hold a Waitaki District Health Forum, under terms of reference approved by the board, as a public meeting at least two times a year as a means of liaison and consultation between the hospital and the community.''

The hospital company held public meetings in March.

hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz

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