NSW hospitals inquiry condemns ‘culture of fear’

The inquiry found First Nations people were still experiencing discrimination in regional hospitals, and telehealth had created another barrier for them in receiving culturally appropriate care.

The inquiry recommended NSW Health and regional Local Health Districts commission an independent review of workplace culture, including complaints management mechanisms.

It was also recommended an independent office of the Health Administration Ombudsman be established to investigate concerns about the conduct of Local Health District management and NSW Health.

The ombudsman would be empowered to investigate complaints from staff, doctors, patients, carers and the public over a range of issues including alleged cover-ups of medical errors or deaths, false or misleading data and bullying or harassment of whistleblowers.

The inquiry received more than 700 submissions as it traveled across the state for 15 public hearings over the course of more than a year.

They told of a toxic culture where doctors were deemed “troublemakers” for speaking out about safety concerns.

The inquiry was triggered by a Herald investigation into western NSW hospitals following the death of Allan Wells, the father of Sydney journalist Jamelle Wells, who she allegedly experienced “third world” conditions at Dubbo Base Hospital in 2019.

Nine journalist Liz Hayes came forward over the preventable death of her father, Bryan Ryan, in tragic circumstances on the state’s Mid North Coast after a hospital failed to give him his vital anti-stroke tablets.

In a joint statement, Wells and Hayes described the inquiry as “an incredibly painful experience.”

“The loss of our fathers, Allan Wells and Bryan Ryan, to a rural health system that we now know is deeply flawed is unforgivable,” they said.

“Sadly the hundreds of submissions show we were not alone.

“We can only hope the recommendations address fundamental issues that have prohibited proper regional health care for years and that the government acts to bring about real change.

“Anything less will be shameful. Country people deserve better. These are people’s lives. They matter. ”

More to come.

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