A Permanent State of Change

Friday 01 Apr 2016

The fall out from the opening of Fiona Stanley Hospital continues to impact across the South Metropolitan health region. The recent FSH Staff Forum conducted by SMHS boss Dr Robyn Lawrence, was well attended with a lot of questions about service cuts and voluntary severance.

According to Dr Lawrence, Rockingham Hospital is about on budget, Armadale is nearly there, and RPH-Bentley, FSH-Fremantle still have budget problems to fix.

Revenue raising is a key focus for management as they try to find ways to plug the gaping holes in their funding. The clear message was that savings so far had not plugged the gap and that the cuts so far were likely to continue.

The need to balance quality and risk against the ‘financial recovery programme’ are set to be challenged by hospital accreditation. The staff freeze and budget woes have seen elective surgery waiting lists grow substantially. Theatre sessions have been cancelled as the waiting list has surged. One staff member noted there were now 97 Category 1 patients who need urgent surgery within 30 days who have been waiting more than 200 days.

There were also questions about cuts to other services including weekend cover for Mental Health; a dozen jobs have gone in Medical Technology; typing jobs are being outsourced; senior clerical jobs have been scrapped; Social Work, Occupational Therapy and Clinical Psychology have also been hit. The message has been ‘we have to work with what we have got’. The national price has dropped again which means there will likely be more pressure on health service budgets to come.

Both Fremantle and Bentley Hospitals are being reorganised and absorbed into their bigger neighbours management structures. Senior managers at both sites have been axed and new arrangements put in place. Other cuts are also being made at both sites. Bentley’s maternity unit gets a two year reprieve, possibly until a new midwifery group practice opens near FSH.

The failed computer systems were also raised with one staff member claiming that 10–20% of admin jobs were built around transferring data from one computer system to another because the systems do not work together.

Dr Lawrence committed to publishing the staff and patient satisfaction survey results when these are available in late April.

One of the key take out messages from the meeting was that the current unsettled environment was a more or less permanent state with budget and activity under continuing, if not growing, pressure.


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