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Senator suspicious of hospital ‘gag-order’

Friday, 10th July, 2015

NSW Senator Deborah O’Neill chaired the Senate Inquiry into Health in the city last month. NSW Senator Deborah O’Neill chaired the Senate Inquiry into Health in the city last month.

By Darrin Manuel

NSW Senator Deborah O’Neill has questioned whether the current turmoil surrounding the local hospital was behind a decision to ban all staff from attending the recent Senate Inquiry into Health.

A public hearing chaired by Senator O’Neill was held in the city on June 10, with the Far West Local Health District conspicuously absent.

During the inquiry it was revealed by Dr Steve Flecknoe-Brown that hospital staff had been told not to attend, a move that Senator O’Neill referred to as a ‘gag-order’.

At the time Senator O’Neill called on NSW Minister for Health Jillian Skinner to explain the reason for the gag order, and questioned what the NSW Health Department was hiding from the inquiry.

That question was also extended to federal Health Minister Sussan Ley, however no answer was received from either party.

“Well, now it seems we may have a partial answer for all the secrecy,” Senator O’Neill said.

“From evidence provided to my office, the scope of dysfunction within the FWLHD is on a scale I have not heard the like of in the committee’s investigations to date.

“This is a disastrous state of affairs that can only have dire outcomes for patient safety and wellbeing.”

Senator O’Neill again challenged the NSW Health Minister regarding the inquiry, and echoed calls from Shadow Minister for Health Walt Secord for an independent investigation into the health service.

“I again call on the Minister to reveal her role in the directive to officers of the FWLHD not to participate in the recent Senate enquiry and going forward, to commit to an independent and transparent review of the local health district.”

Ms Skinner declined to comment to Senator O’Neill’s statements, while Ms Ley said she would await the results of the current internal assessment being conducted.

“As much as Senator O’Neill would like to play this out in the media, the proper process is for an independent internal assessment of any issues,” said Ms Ley.

“The NSW Health Department advises me this is occurring and until that assessment is completed it’s really not appropriate for me to comment publicly.”

FWLHD board chairman Tom Hynes confirmed on Wednesday that a number of issues in the health service were being investigated by an independent party, however the FWLHD is remaining tight-lipped on details surrounding the task.

The FWLHD yesterday refused to reveal a timeframe for the investigation, along with a host of other details such as who is heading the investigation, their qualifications, and how the task will be conducted.

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