Panel appointed to lead health service review

A PANEL has been appointed by the ACT government to lead an independent review into the workplace culture of ACT public health services. 

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Meegan Fitzharris announced today (September 21) that the panel will include Michael (Mick) Reid, who will chair it, and members, Fiona Brew and Prof David Watters.

Over four decades Mick Reid has undertaken many roles in the Australian health system and recently spent three years as the director-general of Queensland Health.  

Fiona Brew has a background in nursing, and has been a senior health executive for more than ten years. And, Prof David Watters is a professor of surgery at Deakin University and works at Barwon Health and the University Hospital Geelong. 

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Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris.

Ms Fitzharris says the independent panel will be tasked with making a range of decisions about the conduct of the review, ensuring the privacy and confidentiality of submissions, and whether there will be public hearings or not.

“This is appropriate to ensure the independence of the review,” she says.

“The panel will also be given appropriate secretariat support to assist throughout this process.”

Ms Fitzharris says the review will be conducted to protect the confidentiality and privacy of individuals who make submissions, and those who may be the subject of complaints to ensure procedural fairness. 

Protections for staff will carefully managed by the independent panel, and be enacted under existing legislation including the Privacy Act, Public Sector Management Act and Fair Work Act.

There is no satisfactory legal framework to underpin the Independent Review into the Workplace Culture within ACT Public Health Services announced by Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris today.

But, Shadow Minister for Health Vicki Dunne says without the legal protections provided by the “Inquiries Act 1991”, witnesses and the panel members remain vulnerable, and the review panel will be limited in powers.

“[The] proposed legal framework – the Privacy Act, Public Sector Management Act and the Fair Work Act – fails to provide sufficient protections and powers,” Ms Dunne says.

“There are no mechanisms to protect participants, take evidence, and compel witnesses.

“The minister has provided no guarantees that witnesses appearing before the panel will have the same protections as a witness proceeding in the Supreme Court.

“The lack of an adequate legal framework may also discourage health staff and related witnesses from coming forward and the panel may in return not get the full story.”

The panel will provide an interim report to government by January 31, and a final report by March 30.

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