Mettam in inquiry call on hospital

Warren Hately & Brianna FioreAugusta Margaret River Times
Vasse MLA Libby Mettam.
Camera IconVasse MLA Libby Mettam. Credit: Michael Wilson/The West Australian, Michael Wilson Picture: Michael Wilson

Shadow health minister Libby Mettam has demanded an urgent inquiry into the Bunbury hospital system.

The Vasse MLA reiterated the call made when revelations first emerged, prior to the March election, about systemic failures and doctors’ lack of confidence due to a string of incidents in Bunbury.

She told the Times too many Capes residents relied on Bunbury for medical care for systemic problems to fester without attention.

Ms Mettam’s renewed call came as WorkSafe confirmed it would investigate Bunbury Hospital after the WA Australian Medical Association filed an official complaint.

A recent survey revealed four in five AMA-listed doctors at Bunbury Hospital said the bad culture had a negative effect on service delivery to patients and the environment was so toxic 69 per cent said they considered resigning or relocation.

And those details follow serious concerns about the capacity of Perth’s hospital system, the “dumbing down” of services at Margaret River and a number of high-profile incidents at Bunbury.

Ms Mettam said the WA Government had to act.

“We have already seen a number of tragic and possibly avoidable incidents in the hospital in the last 12 months and clearly the culture is not getting any better,” Ms Mettam said. “There needs to be urgent intervention to ensure that our clinical staff feel safe and supported and that patient care isn’t compromised further because of a poor workplace culture.”

Ms Mettam said it was “staggering” the survey revealed doctors endured a “toxic workplace” where 85 per cent of respondents said support for the clinical workforce was poor or very poor.

“This is the major regional hospital servicing the whole South West,” Ms Mettam said.

“It is not easy to attract and retain staff in regional areas so for such a high proportion of our clinical staff to be contemplating leaving is alarming both for the staff and for the flow-on effect to patients.”

Health Minister Roger Cook again declined the inquiry call and flipped the script on the AMA, saying it was time to stop “the constant criticism and undermining of the staff at Bunbury Hospital”.

“The focus should be on the doctors, nurses and the rest of the staff who (are) working constructively with the hospital’s executive,” he said.

Despite concerns about the departure of Dr Adam Coulson — the hospital’s emergency medicine director whose contract was not renewed without explanation — medical services director Dr Sergey Bibikov defended the WA Country Health Service’s commitment to improvement.

“You’d struggle to find any hospital that is stress-free, and Bunbury Regional Hospital is no different,” he said.

“Over the last year, I’ve seen a real and ongoing commitment from WACHS, who I believe are supporting the team at Bunbury more than ever.

“There is still a long way to go, but what’s clear is we’re starting to see strong, collaborative local leadership and an overall improvement in morale.”

WACHS acting chief executive Margaret Denton said the service had acted on cultural concerns.

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