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Inquiry into poor morale at hospital

The board that oversees Princess Margaret Hospital has ordered a review into complaints by staff that poor morale and management are jeopardising patient safety.

The Child and Adolescent Health Service sent an email to staff yesterday after a forum last Friday to address widespread concerns at the ageing hospital.

PMH should have closed more than a year ago but has been forced to stay open because of delays to the troubled Perth Children’s Hospital project.

During the election campaign, Health Minister John Day said the lead levels in the water at the new hospital were coming down, but remained a fraction above the accepted guidelines in a few of the test sites.

He was adamant he and Premier Colin Barnett had done everything possible to get the project completed and revealed they had met with the president of the Chinese parent company of the builder John Holland.

The West Australian understands that John Holland may have positive news about the lead levels and a practical completion date for the hospital as soon as today.

Last month, the PMH clinical staff association warned in a position statement that the safety of children at the hospital was being put at risk, and claimed many doctors have lost confidence in hospitalmanagement.

The association cited a shortage of registrars, an inability to provide a proper after-hours service and restrictions on staff taking leave.

Staff shortages and high levels of distress posed “a major risk to the safety of children and young people” at the hospital, the association said.

The chair of the Child and Adolescent Health Service board, Debbie Karasinski, said in an email to staff yesterday that issues of patient safety and staff wellbeing were being taken “extremely seriously”.

She said the board had agreed to commission a review of the concerns of staff, which would be overseen by WA’s chief medical officer Gary Geelhoed.

Professor Geelhoed is a former head of PMH’s emergency department, and a past president of the Australian Medical Association which has been a strong critic of PMH management in recent months.

Last week, results from a Health Department survey of more than 2000 Child and Adolescent Health service staff revealed poor satisfaction rates, with only half of workers believing the organisation treated them with respect.

Only half said they would stay at their workplace if they found a similar job elsewhere and only 58 per cent said they would recommend their organisation as a good place to work.

Medical staff and nurses were the least complimentary about PMH.

Ms Karasinski said in her email that the board was setting up a clinical reference group at PMH to get feedback from staff and would expand a wellness program for junior doctors.

It was also bringing in an external mediator to improve communication between staff and the PMH executive.

A second staff forum will be held next Monday.

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