The CEO of Canberra Health Services (CHS) has moved to dispel “confusion” about the speed of transition for Calvary Public Hospital Bruce in an email message to all staff.
It comes as a day-long hearing has been set for Wednesday (7 June) in the ACT Supreme Court for Calvary Health Care’s legal challenge against the forced acquisition.
CHS CEO Dave Peffer informed staff they had agreed to “hold fire” on transition plans in light of the pending legal proceedings, with a court decision on what can and can’t go ahead expected to “shortly follow”.
“Although it does apply the brake to our transition plan for a few days – it’ll be good to put this uncertainty behind all of us,” he wrote.
“We’ll continue to push on and do what we can to create a positive transition experience for those most impacted by the change – Calvary team members.”
Mr Peffer went on to address concerns raised by both CHS and Calvary employees about the speed of the transition and the acquisition date.
The ACT Government said it wants the transition to occur by 3 July.
Mr Peffer acknowledged the speed of the acquisition would be fast, but there had also been confusion over the process.
“It had to be fast. The reason – it’s unsafe having uncertainty in clinical governance or decision making in health care for an enduring period of time,” he wrote.
“When a patient arrests or a MET is called, we wouldn’t accept a response where no one was sure who was in charge. It’d be a recipe for disaster.
“Having a health service with 12 months of uncertainty about who’s going to be in charge isn’t good for patients or the workforce.”
He went on to explain the date had been set to dispel uncertainty about who was in charge; however, the rest of the transition program was expected to take a year.
“There are some tasks we consider ‘critical path’, and we’ll work to resolve before 3 July, but there are many more that would be completed over the following 12 months, in a staged and measured way,” Mr Peffer wrote.
“Depending on the events [from the court hearing], we’ll move through a series of gates with a go/no-go decision to be made about the acquisition date, with safety front of mind.
“Compressing the timeframe does increase the degree of difficulty – and the risk profile of the project grows.”
The Northside Hospital Transition Team has already formulated a draft plan for this handover; however, the regulation stipulates it needs to work through the plan with a Calvary representative.
As information sessions about the transition and acquisition cannot be run on the public hospital site due to the legal proceedings, they will continue online and at the University of Canberra Hospital for now.
Mr Peffer also addressed the public criticism of the entire process thus far, some of which he described as “disappointing, deliberate, and not surprising”.
“When the Government’s decision was conveyed, we were promised that things would ‘get messy’,” he wrote.
“It’s a promise they’ve followed through with on a number of levels in a public way. And now, of course, we have lawyers at 50 paces, doing their thing.
“I don’t think it’s been helpful. And it’s hard to see precisely how that’s supporting either [of our] health services’ workforces, or our patients.”
The government has stood by its 3 July transition date, with the Health Minister stating on Monday (5 June) it was still “very achievable” if the court matter was decided in their favour either on Wednesday or shortly after.
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said they were ready to present their draft transition plan as soon as they could legally.
“We know that the Calvary Public Hospital Bruce staff are the experts in how their hospital works. We have been very clear that there is no intention to change how that hospital works in the short term,” she said.
“So sitting down with them to say, ‘Are there things we haven’t thought of through the plan? Are there other things that actually we don’t need to do by the 3rd of July because they’ll just continue on?’, that opportunity for that sort of conversation is really important.
“But obviously, we’ll need to wait until after Wednesday to know whether we can go in and start having those conversations.”
Ms Stephen-Smith reiterated they had considered several transition options, depending on the level of cooperation from Calvary Health Care.
She also acknowledged that any grief some staff felt over the acquisition wouldn’t go away as of 3 July. Support would be put in place for them, including counsellors on-site and through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
There are also plans to bring more specific services on site, but they were not elaborated upon as they form part of the draft transition plan that needs to be viewed by Calvary.