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Royal North Shore Hospital (RNSH) senior medical staff have passed a motion of no confidence in the conduct of the North Sydney Local Health District (LHD) Board regarding their handling of the recently announced plan for hospital land divestment.
In an extraordinary meeting of the Medical Staff Council (MSC) to vote on a motion of no confidence in the conduct of the LHD Board over the sale or long-term lease of the hospital’s southern campus, the motion was passed by a large majority of clinicians, late yesterday evening, Monday, December 22.
The motion was proposed by the senior medical staff who had been involved in the development of the Campus Master Plan – a document which now appears is being used by the NSW Minister of Health, Mrs Jillian Skinner MP, as the justification for the sale or long-term lease of nearly one hectare of hospital land.
Following debate on the wording of the motion, a large majority of medical staff passed a motion of no confidence on the issue of the Board’s failure to acknowledge their concerns and to represent their views in dealings with the Ministry.
Staff decided against voting on and passing a motion of no confidence on the overall conduct of the Board following a meeting between senior clinicians and Board representatives at the eleventh hour where there was acknowledgement by the Board that the issue of land divestment had been poorly handled. There was also strong undertaking by Board representatives to work with clinicians to improve communication and engagement.
According to Dr Adam Rehak, Chair, RNSH Medical Staff Council and Anaesthetist, Sydney, the vote was very much about getting the Board to hear staff concerns rather than to destabilise or undermine its members.
“It’s a shame that it came to a motion of no confidence but the upshot is the Board and medical staff are now at the table and talking.
“We see the Board as advocates for the hospital and the Local Health District and when an overwhelming majority of senior medical staff feel there is a risk to the hospital, we expect the Board to represent us accordingly,” Dr Rehak said.
RNSH clinicians believe the Campus Master Plan does not include the necessary long-term projections and analysis for land divestment and are concerned divestment could have disastrous consequences for the future of the Hospital.
Dr Tony Joseph, MSC Member and Senior Emergency Physician & Director of Trauma, RNSH, Sydney, echoed staff sentiments as senior medical staff continue to fight the Ministry of Health’s decision to sell the southern campus.
“It’s disappointing that senior RNSH medical staff have had to pursue this course of action. However, we feel that it is important to state that the MSC strongly opposed and continues to oppose, the proposed divestment.
“Senior clinicians have never supported the sale or long-term lease of the RNSH campus,” said Dr Joseph.
“While the divestment decision ultimately rests with the Health Minister, the Board is responsible for supporting decisions made which we do not believe are in the best interests of RNSH,” Dr Joseph said.
Despite the clinicians’ pleas to the NSW Premier, Mr Mike Baird MP and Mrs Skinner to cease the planned divestment, the NSW Government remains unmoveable, with plans to recoup $97 million from the land sale. This action is further compounded by claims by NSW Treasurer, Mr Andrew Constance MP, that land divestment at RNSH was decided years ago.
Should the RNSH campus land be sold, the Department of Health has guaranteed themselves tenancy of the new multi- storey office building, providing ongoing revenue to the successful developer.
RNSH staff have been calling on the Government to preserve the land for future use, solely for the benefit of the hospital, its patients, visitors and the local community.
“The NSW Government seems to be willing to compromise the long-term future of the hospital in order to get a couple of omitted services paid for in the short-term. This is short-sighted and irresponsible behaviour,” said Dr Rehak.
“The LHD Board and the Government need to understand that the MSC and the electorate know this is the wrong decision and just as the motion of no confidence on this issue was passed by RNSH medical staff, we trust the electorate too will express their opinion in the ballot box next March.”
RNSH is a major referral hospital for trauma, spinal injuries and burns across NSW and currently serves 1-in-17 Australians and 1-in-6 people from NSW. The hospital, founded in 1885 by the people, for the people, currently employs 5,000 staff within the medical, surgical, nursing, research, allied health and support service departments. Since establishment, the role of the hospital and the patients for whom it cares, has dramatically changed. Furthermore, the rapidly growing population is resulting in a year-on-year increase in emergency department presentations and hospital admissions (10 per cent and 5 per cent per annum, respectively).
To help save RNSH, or to learn more, head to www.save.rnsh.org.
At the latest meeting of the RNSH Medical Staff Council (MSC), a motion of no confidence in the LHD Board was proposed by the clinician representatives of the Master Planning Executive Working Group (MEWG), which was subsequently supported by the Executive of the MSC.
Given the item was not on the meeting’s agenda, a vote could not be held.
The MSC has since scheduled an Extraordinary Meeting for next Monday, December 22 at 5.30pm in the Kolling Auditorium at RNSH.
The meeting has been scheduled for the reasons below. Should the motion stand, we will bring the motion to the attention of the NSW Health Minister.
Please attend the meeting to #helpsaveRNSH and to send a strong, unified message to the NSW Health Minister regarding how we expect Board-related business to be led.
- The Board’s failure to disclose the planned divestment of campus land over the entire duration of the campus Master Planning process. This process extended from early 2012 until September 2014 when, without notice or consultation, the “Expression of Interest” (EOI) process for the sale or long-term lease of the Southern Campus land was announced. There is no mention of the sale or long-term lease of land in the Master Plan document which was developed during the campus Master Planning process.
- The Board’s failure to consider the long-term future of the campus in endorsing the sale or long-term lease of the Southern campus land and not providing an opportunity for alternative funding options to be explored.
- The Board’s misrepresentation of the views of the clinician representatives on the MEWG to the Minister of Health and to the broader RNSH staff, by implying they either:
i) supported the proposed sale or long-term lease of Zone 8 of the southern campus, or
ii)”signed-off” on the divestment by endorsing the campus master plan.
This was clearly not the case as outlined in the letter written by the aforementioned clinician representatives to the Chair of the Board, dated October 10, 2014.
- The Board’s failure to acknowledge the concerns of the MEWG clinicians, or that their views had been misrepresented, and to provide a response to the letter described in point 3, above.
- The Board’s failure to acknowledge, and take responsibility for, the communication failures around the divestment strategy. This failure was further compounded by the attempt to blame the MEWG clinicians for failing to communicate the details of the Campus Master Plan to the broader nursing and allied health staff – an accusation that was both disrespectful and baseless.
- The Board’s provision of incorrect information regarding the land divestment. The MEWG clinicians were assured by the Chair of the MEWG that there was no plan to divest campus land. There has been no explanation for why the MEWG was given this incorrect information.
Dr Richard Piper, Staff Specialist in Intensive Care, RNSH has composed the following video for the opening of RNSH’s Clinical Services Building this Friday, December, 12 http://goo.gl/BfaeRX
“In 2011, NSW Health was planning to divest more than 30 per cent of the RNSH campus. They were about to destroy one of the major teaching hospitals in the country. It was a public health disaster.
“Within two years [of the completion of the new Acute Services building], it had been necessary to construct another building to house these essential patient services. This building, The Clinical Services Building, is to be opened this week by the Minister for Health. It is constructed on land that would have been divested in 2011 had it not been for the community’s protest.
“We do not seem to have learned from this lesson. At the present time, NSW Health is proceeding with divestment of land on the southern part of the RNSH campus. This land is adjacent to land that was divested in the 1990s. The funds generated at this time would only have run the hospital for a few months, but the clinical opportunities that it could’ve provided were lost forever.” Dr Richard Piper.