Qld Government responds to Caboolture Hospital review: “Nothing to see here… Move along please…”

By Michael Thomas


The much-anticipated independent review into practices, governance and workplace culture at Caboolture Hospital, ordered following public outrage over botched surgery and other failings, has now been released.

And, guess what? Everything’s fine, they maybe just need to engage and empathise with patients a bit more and improve their reports and record-keeping!

Or so Health Minister Yvette D’Ath and our “caring for Queenslanders” Premier would have us believe. Jim McGowan, chair of governing body Metro North Hospital & Health Service, even said no one would be sacked “because the inquiry found no evidence of malpractice.”

It’s true the review panel, headed by respected South Australian surgeon James Sweeney, after spending a whole three days at the hospital, did have a few stern words to say about a "negative workplace culture and destabilised governance structure which could be putting safety at risk." Also true that the review made 19 recommendations – most of which concern internal administrative procedures, frontline staff training and education as well as some additional external oversight.

But only one preventable clinical management issue was identified: a decision to operate that caused the death of a patient who otherwise would have been expected to survive. Not surprising, since in that area the panel’s brief was to “Examine Hospital Acquired Complications (HACs) including surgical infection rates and other infection or surgical outcome data collected by the hospital of patients who have undergone surgery at the Caboolture Hospital from 2020 to present.Not even two years. How selective is that, when cases of unacceptable treatment and life-destroying outcomes dating back many years have been publicly aired? Especially when it was the exposure of such cases which triggered this review in the first place.

No wonder the state opposition has slammed the report, while the government has had very little to say about it, other than the Premier’s tetchy response to repeated media questioning: "That report, it was independent, it was handed down, the recommendations have been accepted, they'll be implemented, and that is exactly what the public would expect to happen."

No, Premier. The public is entitled to expect that you would take this matter far more seriously than you or your health minister appear to be capable of doing. As opposition leader David Crisafulli said in response to the premier’s dismissive acceptance of the review’s findings, “…if you have a heart and if you believe in transparency, you’ll open this up properly and investigate these claims. Because this is the kind of report you get when you’re not really looking for the truth.”

These sentiments were echoed by Shadow Health Minister Ros Bates: “This report shows patients don’t matter, you can maim people and no one is responsible or held accountable.

“As a registered nurse and a former hospital administrator it is unbelievable that one of the comments relates to doctors and staff needing to engage with a patient who has suffered a hospital-acquired complication and to explain what had happened. This is basic care.

“Open disclosure and transparency is not new, and it should have been implemented many years ago. Each of the recommendations highlight a complete lack of governance and leadership. There are so many failings and multiple examples where quality and safety protocols have been ignored, it’s no wonder patients have been maimed and hurt.

“The Health Minister is solely responsible for this sham review and should be held accountable.”

We tend to agree. And, apart from instructing all Queensland hospital administrators to read the report, Ms. D’Ath has been remarkably quiet on the matter. The many people who have been directly and indirectly affected by serious issues which appear to have been downplayed in this report deserve better treatment – in every respect.

The full Review can be read and downloaded from www.metronorth.health.qld.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/independent-governance-review-2021.pdf


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