The QNU has welcomed the details of plans to break up Qld Health but doctors’ groups remain sceptical. By Mardi Chapman.
The plan to restructure Queensland’s health and hospitals system by July is being received with cautious optimism by the Queensland Nurses Union (QNU).
Premier Anna Bligh announced the plan on January 21 but because it coincides with the unofficial campaign for the state election it has been criticised by other stakeholders, including the state opposition and the AMA branch.
It has variously been labelled a rebadging exercise rather than real change or window dressing in the face of repeated, large scale administrative failures by Queensland Health.
Acting QNU secretary Des Elder said the process was a necessary change for a department that had become unmanageable. “Something needed to be done. Scepticism, especially over the payroll issue, meant that trust could no longer be taken for granted at either the local health level or corporate level.”
The plan effectively hives off corporate services such as IT and HR into a separate Health Corporate Services Authority and creates a leaner Health and Hospitals Queensland responsible for state-wide health planning, policy development and performance management.
Health and Hospitals Queensland (HHQ) will be led by Dr Tony O’Connell, the recently appointed director-general of the old Queensland Health. A new CEO for the HCSA is yet to be recruited.
In line with the national health reform agenda, clinical services will be devolved to 17 local health and hospital networks.
The plan is designed to enhance health service delivery in Queensland through greater efficiency and effectiveness, more clarity around roles and responsibilities, and improved accountability.
“We expect the government to deliver on this,” Elder said. He said the corporate office restructure would not directly affect many QNU members but the union would be monitoring the situation closely.
“There is no need to be critical of the process at this stage. We have an open mind but we will be watching carefully for any adverse impact on our members and on the provision of clinical services.”
“We certainly will be raising with the government any issues that arise and we rely heavily on nurses in the district and corporate offices for such information.”
Elder said the timing of the restructure was fortuitous – coinciding with the transfer of clinical staff to local health and hospital networks as part of the National Health Reform Agreement. “It complements the national health reform agenda and without that, I think we would see little improvement.”
The restructure also coincides with the extension of a Voluntary Separation Program (VSP) encouraging public servants in non-service delivery areas across all departments to take up redundancy packages.
According to the Implementation Plan for Restructuring Queensland Health, the department will lose about 155 employees in the head office through redundancies.
“We support a more streamlined approach as long as there is no negative effect on the ability of the remaining workers to do their jobs effectively,” Elder said.
Bligh has committed to implementing the health changes within 100 days of taking office after the next state election.
The new health system
• Health and Hospitals Queensland (HHQ) to lead policy development and innovation in the key areas of hospital and clinical service delivery. (Estimated staff numbers 1751.)
• Health Corporate Services Authority (HCSA) to be responsible for providing corporate services that better support frontline health staff, including functions such as finance, human resourcing systems and ICT . (Estimated staff numbers 4217.)
• Core frontline health service delivery through 17 Local Health and Hospital Networks - services delivered by the community, for the community, in the community.
• Additional Health and Hospital Network will also be established to provide clinical services that need to be delivered at a state-wide level, such as pathology and radiology.
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