HEAD OF HEALTH: CEO of the Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service Dr Peter Gillies and Board Chair Mike Horan.
HEAD OF HEALTH: CEO of the Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service Dr Peter Gillies and Board Chair Mike Horan. Nev Madsen

Culture check-up launched at Dalby Hospital

DARLING Downs Hospital and Health Service CEO Dr Peter Gillies has broken his silence after two months of turmoil at the hospital.

In an exclusive interview with the Dalby Herald, Dr Gillies announced a cultural review of the hospital had been launched.

The "wellness culture check-up'' will be conducted by a third party and is expected to start within two weeks.

"I've done this in the past and it gives me a neutral opinion of what's going on,” Dr Gillies said.

"The third party keeps the names anonymous so staff feel safe to speak up honestly.

"It's up to the staff, if everyone wants to talk to this individual then they will be provided an opportunity to do that.”

The inquiry into the hospital's culture comes after a number of nurses contacted the Dalby Herald about a range of issues from safety to bullying.

"Because of the concerns that you've discussed and I've discussed, that's what we're going to do (hold a wellness culture check-up) with Dalby to see if we can get to the bottom of things and get the staff feeling more comfortable,” Dr Gillies said.

He said after the culture check-up a report would be generated with a series of recommendations.

"In general we would institute those recommendations unless there was some compelling reason not to,” he said.

"And if we weren't going to we'd look for an alternative that was acceptable to all parties.”

When asked if the health service would terminate the contract of any staff member found to be contributing to a toxic culture, Dr Gillies said "this is not that type of review” but appropriate action would be taken.

"This is a cultural check-up looking at the general culture morale within the unit,” he said.

"If there are consistent staff reports about any staff member - management or not - that raise concerns, then they are dealt with in the appropriate performance management processes.”

Dr Gillies would not be drawn when pressed on whether he believed certain individuals in leadership positions at Dalby Hospital had been beneficial or detrimental.

"It's not appropriate to talk about individual managers ... I need an objective way of monitoring how things are running,” he said.

"If any employee, manager or otherwise, is not behaving in accordance with the values (of the health service), then that's dealt with through the appropriate mechanisms.”

Former nurses who spoke anonymously with the Dalby Herald alleged staff turnover at the hospital had been an issue for the past two years, and that a feeling of resentment on departure was common.

Though Dr Gillies couldn't confirm staff turnover at the hospital, he said it would be investigated if it was identified as high in comparison to other healthcare centres.

"Staff turnover is one thing we do monitor, we also do exit interviews of staff as a routine.

"If you're getting lots of staff reporting the same kind of thing around that, well then obviously you say, 'Well wait a minute, there's something going on here'.

"An increase in staff turnover would be a concern and we would look into that.”

Dr Gillies said the health service employed more than 5500 people across 20 hospitals and 27 healthcare facilities, and staff welfare was a key focus of the board.

"One of the things we instituted nearly two years ago was a really detailed staff survey, which is what is called a 'message in a bottle'.

"It's an opportunity for any person to write to me anonymously about any issue they've got in the health service.

"I received 1700 and I read every single one of them.

"I remember the Dalby ones, there was a series of positive comments about the director of nursing, about how fair and how balanced she was.

"We repeated it this year and it shows an improvement in the culture of the Dalby Hospital from the previous year ... there were no red flags coming through from staff.”

Dr Gillies said despite a cultural review and reports of staff unrest, Dalby Hospital was a great place to be employed.

"Dalby is a safe place to work, we have zero tolerance for occupational violence and we will continue to work with the staff to enhance security and training.

"Safety of our staff and patients is paramount.”