The chair of the board of the directors of Ballarat Health Services has apologised publicly for what had occurred at the hospital in recent years, saying that the processes for identifying and addressing bullying and harassment were ‘inadequate and wanting’.
Addressing the 20th annual general meeting in a packed education room at Ballarat Base Hospital, both chair Rowena Coutts and chief executive officer Dale Fraser acknowledged the human and financial cost that bullying had inflicted on the hospital and the more importantly the morale and well-being of its staff.
“Our processes… in some instances have failed to protect staff,” said Ms Coutts.
Ballarat Health Services has posted an operating deficit for the year 2015-2016, with CEO Dale Fraser admitting the poor result is a direct outcome of ‘workplace culture external reviews and sick leave’.
The $982,000 deficit stands in opposition to a $134,000 operating profit in the previous year.
Ms Coutts recommitted the board and BHS executive to extensive structural review, capability audits of the board and executive, new complaints processes and managers, an enhanced Employee Assistance Program and the establishment of a protected disclosure process.
In terms of performance, BHS exceeded its targets on ambulance patient transfer within 40 minutes and met several other targets including the number of hospital-initiated cancellations and the removal of all categories of elective surgery patients from a greater than 30-day wait.
It fell short of its targets in treating triage and elective patients in clinically recommended time, having a percentage of emergency patients with a stay of less than four hours in the emergency department, and the number of elective patients on its waiting list.
Ballarat Health Services now employs 4042 staff, said Dale Fraser. This makes BHS the largest employer in Ballarat.
The name of the new Drummond Street wing of the hospital was also revealed at the AGM. It will be called the Gardiner-Pittard Building, honouring the first two women to be elected to the hospital board in 1928, Helen Gardiner and Mary Pittard. The two women were also the convenors of the hospital's Women’s Auxiliary, which aided patient welfare.
There was no reference to the fraud committed upon the health service earlier in the year, which saw in excess of $2 million taken from the hospital, nor its supposed recovery either by police or via insurance.
No questions were taken at the Ballarat Health Services’ annual general meeting.