Victorian hospital staff issue emotional video plea for more funding

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A Victorian hospital chief executive said he was “gagged” by the Victorian government after members of his staff issued a desperate social media plea to upgrade their “horrendous” emergency department and intensive care unit.

Western District Health Service chief executive Rohan Fitzgerald said he received a “disturbing” call from health bureaucrats shortly before an interview with 3AW radio on Wednesday morning in which he was told he risked being in breach of Public Administration Act for articulating the state of the hospital.

Mr Fitzgerald also said he had been told by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to remove a video posted by Hamilton Base Hospital staff, who fall under Western District’s ambit, that pleaded for upgrades to the ED and ICU departments at the hospital.

Western District Health Service staff have posted a video to social media pleading for an upgrade to the emergency department at Hamilton Base Hospital

“I didn’t realise that truth telling was a breach of any act in this country,” he said.

“I will not be silenced on this.”

Mr Fitzgerald said clinicians at Hamilton base did not have a clear line of sight to patients, who often lacked privacy, and sick patients needed to be removed from ED into the waiting rooms if a patient presented with more acute symptoms.

Camera IconHamilton Base Hospital staff have pleaded for upgrades to the town’s ‘horrendous’ emergency department. Facebook Credit: Supplied

“Our ED is no bigger than a tin can,” he said.

Mr Fitzgerald said the hospital, located in the western Victorian town of Hamilton, had blocked off corridors to use as a temporary patient bay.

He said he had written multiple times to Victorian Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas in recent months without reply, while the government had declined the hospital’s applications for funding grants.

Supplied Editorial Western District Health Service staff have posted a video to social
 media pleading for an upgrade to the emergency department at Hamilton Base
 Hospital. Picture: Facebook
Camera IconVictorian health bureaucrats requested a video, in which staff of Hamilton Base Hospital pleaded for upgrades, to be removed from social media, the hospital’s CEO said. Facebook Credit: Supplied

In the video, a member of the hospital’s staff described the ED, which they said received 10,000 patients a year, as “not even fit for an office space”.

Another described it as “horrendous”.

Mr Fitzgerald said he was trying to trying to raise $32m for the upgrades, $15m of which the hospital had offered to pay.

He said members of the local community recently contributed $2m for a community dialysis facility.

Deputy Victorian Liberal Party leader and opposition health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier said the government had politicised the needs of healthcare staff.

“It demonstrates just how far the Andrews government will go to gag those speaking out on the failures within Victoria’s healthcare system,” Ms Crozier said.

A Department of Health spokesperson said they would continue working closely with Western District Health, along with the Victorian Health Building Authority, over Hamilton Base Hospital.

“While this work is ongoing, the Hamilton community continue to be safely supported by a range of services at the hospital,” they said.

“Patient safety and staff support are our primary concerns across all public hospital sites, which are rigorously assessed for their safety, security and suitability to ensure patients can be appropriately cared for.

“We’re constantly improving health services across Victoria, not just through infrastructure upgrades, but through major staffing initiatives – including training and recruiting 24,000 additional healthcare workers, free degrees for nurses and $13,000 travel allowances for overseas healthcare workers to work in a regional healthcare service.”

Ms Thomas have been contacted for comment.

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