John Hunter staff at “crisis point”

A group of the John Hunter Hospital’s top specialists have broken ranks over what they describe as a “significant deterioration” in care due to poor resourcing.

Despite not having the blessing of the medical staff council, 12 senior doctors including vascular surgeons, anesthetists and obstetricians said in a letter to hospital management they had no choice but to speak out as the situation had reached “crisis point” with a lack of beds, access to operating theatres and critical care capacity.

In the letter signed by the doctors they said:

“There is grossly inadequate bed capacity, dangerously inadequate critical care capacity and inadequate theatre access.

“Every day, because of these shortages, we are forced to make decisions that seriously compromise both immediate clinical care and longer health outcomes.

“Staff shortages in several of the surgical/medical craft groups were raised by the clinicians on multiple occasions over prolonged periods, were not addressed, and when predictable crises ensued, less than ideal solutions were implemented.

“Hunter New England has taken a hostile approach to many of its clinicians as evidenced by several vexatious claims that are promoted by the area health service. The resulting resignations result in inadequate specialty cover, reduced morale, and an unsustainable burden on remaining staff. A culture of fear then becomes the predominant workplace environment.

“Unfortunately, our CEO, incumbent for more than a decade, is in the economic paddock with little concern for clinical care.”

Michael DiRienzo, the Chief Executive of Hunter New England Health did respond yesterday and said he and the board would be offering a meeting to those clinicians to further discuss the concerns raised in their letter.

“I regularly engage with a number of senior clinicians at the hospital, including the department clinical directors, and have not been made aware of these concerns.

“While this feedback is important, it is not an accurate representation of the 479 doctors who make up our medical workforce at John Hunter Hospital.

“I acknowledge the last two years have been incredibly challenging for all health staff across the state, and I am very grateful for the efforts of our clinical and support staff who worked extremely hard against a backdrop of workforce and resource challenges.

“Despite this, Hunter New England Health staff have continued to deliver safe, quality patient centred care, which is validated by our quality and safety data. This has also been confirmed through a recent routine assessment by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare.”