I have been a General Practitioner in Canberra for thirteen years. During this time I have developed a reputation for being a tenacious and persistent advocate for the appropriate and respectful management of my patients by other health services and in particular by the ACT Health Department’s facilities.
Over the years I have written about it in various forms – the most comprehensive piece being the wall of shame that keeps on growing. One would like to think that this persistent pressure being placed on the System would have led to some changes however sadly, at least from my perspective, this has not proven to be the case.
The proper channels are followed long before these issues are raised on a blog or Twitter. The typical process that I would follow, upon becoming aware of a concern, is to:
- Contact the Doctor involved either directly or through the GP Liaison Units (GPLU) at the relevant hospital.
- If this hits a hurdle I would escalate it to the relevant Departmental Heads.
- The next step is involving the CEO of the hospital and insisting on a formal investigation known as a RISKMAN.
- From there on I contact the ACT Director General of Health and the Minister of Health.
- If all of the above fail I would consider involving the Media – having carefully de-identified the details.
In more distant years gone by this process has resulted in a few meetings with CEOs and/or ACT Health Officials with lots of glorious promises of which very few were kept.
The GPLUs have consistently supported my inquiries but also consistently ran into obstacle after obstacle that were being placed in front of them by the very organisations that they represented. They try their best but are the proverbial meat in the sandwich
Over the last few years I have been told that some of the Departmental Heads refused to respond to my communications as it was “making them too angry” – they obviously did not quite grasp that this was not about THEM. Others might make a phonecall or two to me and ostensibly be very supportive of my concerns and issues yet very rarely tend to put them in writing to me. And the only person who could be bothered to do this in recent times has now also resigned from their post.
The CEO of our local hospital has not directly responded to any of my communications for more than a year – at best I might be copied in when forwarding it to an underling or at worst it would simply be ignored.
All communication about this to the ACT DG of Health and Minister of Health about these matters have simply been ignored over the last year.
What I find the most incredible is that even the Media appears to have no appetite for this. Despite repeated communications to every variation of printed, radio and Television media that services our Territory not a single one of my e-mails were responded to. As mentioned above only the absolutely worst case scenarios would trigger this yet no journalist has EVER shown an interest in taking this matter on.
Full-page spreads in the Canberra Times are allocated to the latest harebrained vote buying scheme that our health Minister has to offer yet the disgracefulness way in which the most vulnerable members of our society is being treated within our local Health Services does not interest the journalists at all.
My insistence on formal RISKMANs also seem to have fallen on deaf ears – they are reportedly being done, I have been promised copies of the outcomes yet not a single such report on any of the near weekly cases that come across my desk has been seen.
So here we are – the impact on my personal health of fighting the system like this for the last decade is starting to catch up and one must get to a stage where the decision needs to be made if it is worth continuing the fight?
Do I just do what all the other GPs in Canberra do and just accept the system as being flawed and broken and just bounce them back into the system when things go pear-shaped ?
The question for me is can I work like that? Because if I cannot accept the broken system as the default then it is perhaps time to walk away from it before it kills me.