June 23 - 29, 2019: Issue 410


Inquiry Into Northern beaches Hospital Open for Submissions, lists Public Hearings as more directors depart

Residents have until July 28th to lodge a submission into the Upper House Inquiry into the Northern Beaches Hospital. The Terms of Reference are listed below, along with a link to where submissions may be lodged online.

The Committee has also announced the dates for the Public Hearings, listed below, and that these will be streamed online.

The news comes amid an announcement that the Northern Beaches Hospital's Director of Nursing, Moran Wasson, has confirmed she is on leave and will not be returning to her position. 

Healthscope, the hospital's private operator, confirmed in a statement that Ms Wasson had left the hospital.

"We acknowledge Moran is taking a break after a long and distinguished nursing career and we thank her for her support and dedication," it said. Healthscope added that a replacement will be appointed in July, with an acting director of nursing being put in place in the interim.

Ms Wasson's departure follows on the departure of Director of Operations Pat Taurins on Friday, June 21st, Mr. Taurins having been made redundant, the second senior executive to go this week, chief executive Deborah Latta, whose resignation came just two days after the official opening, followed by director of medical services Dr Louise Messara and two anaesthetists.

The union representing paramedics says its members are sometimes taking patients to the Royal North Shore Hospital in St Leonards for fear that the Northern Beaches Hospital cannot cope.

The secretary of the Health Services Union, Gerard Hayes, said it was getting feedback that paramedics were averting the new hospital.

"Some of our paramedics are telling us that they will go to Royal North Shore Hospital if it's a line-ball," he said.

The hospital's emergency department is also under scrutiny with Bureau of Health Information revealing that in the first three months of this year, there were lengthy delays for treatment.

NSW Opposition health spokesman Walt Secord said this is an issue that needs to be investigated.

"Forty per cent of patients are waiting longer than four hours [and] 10 per cent are waiting seven hours in the emergency department," he said this week.

"It's a brand-new hospital. Patients should be going in and out and [getting] quality care."

Only 59.9 per cent of patients were treated in the clinically recommended time frame at the Northern Beaches Hospital in Jan-March this year. This compares with 85.8 at Mona Vale Hospital last year.

In January 2019 the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association released a statement reiterating the ongoing problems at the new public-private facility. 

Staff, led by doctors and anaesthetists, began to expose life-threatening flaws in NBH management. The ABC reported that an email from a senior anaesthetist detailed a case where a mother undergoing an emergency caesarean survived “against the odds”.

“Let me be clear these are NOT ‘teething problems,’ he wrote in the email to the head of his department, adding that the emergency caesarean was a nightmare for clinicians.

“The hospital currently fails completely in its primary objective of patient safety.”

“There was inadequate supply of equipment, insufficiently trained staff, poor protocols for simple requests such as a blood transfusion, and a complete lack of a cohesive plan for (a) worst-case scenario.”

The government always claimed that NBH would treat public patients the same as at any public hospital. The first indication that this was false came 12 days after opening, with Pittwater Online reporting of a patient refused an angiogram because NBH would not accept his private insurance with NIB. John Whitehead was also told that if he entered the hospital as a public patient it would cost him $4,945.

Mr Whitehead was forced to book into Royal North Shore Hospital, a move that delayed his treatment. After a huge outcry and intervention by Mr Whitehead’s local MP, NBH arranged for his angiogram to go ahead.

Richard West, a retired Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Professor of Surgery called on the NSW government to ensure public and private patients receive the same treatment at NBH. Professor West has consistently called for adequate provisions for stroke treatment to be available at the hospital - as it is, patients are still being sent to the North Shore Hospital, losing valuable time for treatment.

Professor West AM confirmed yesterday a submission will be made by him.

Mothers’ group, Friends of Northern Beaches Maternity Services, continues to state the NBH is putting profits before mothers and babies because of its refusal to expand midwife-led birth services.

“We’re worried NBH is not going to deliver good public maternity services because they want women to go with private obstetricians, which is more profitable,” a spokesperson said.

The ability for the hospital to treat children remains of concern too with many being sent elsewhere, with the distance and time lost again featuring as a bad outcome in these incidents.

Among all the reports of woe there are some who readily acknowledge a good experience at the new hospital though. Their praise for the staff, specialists, nurses and even those in charge of the car park on the level of care and understanding received may indicate the 'teething problems' are being met at the coal face one patient at a time.

Former staff and specialists are expected to be called to give evidence, including those who have left, along with the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association, Save Mona Vale Hospital Committee, and Friends of Northern Beaches Maternity Services among others.

The link for residents to make their own submissions runs below.


12th June 2019

An Upper House inquiry has been established to examine the operation and management of Sydney’s Northern Beaches Hospital located at Frenchs Forest.

The Hon. Greg Donnelly MLC, Chair of the Committee said: “Since its opening in October last year, the new public-private Northern Beaches Hospital has been the subject of much concern in the community.

There is strong support right across the Northern Beaches community and beyond for a parliamentary inquiry to look into this new model of running a hospital that services both public and private patients.”

Through this inquiry, the committee will examine matters including the contract and other arrangements establishing the hospital, as well as the ongoing arrangements for its operation and maintenance. Other matters to be considered will be the current standards of service provision and care along with staffing arrangements and staffing changes at the hospital.

The Chair continued: “Importantly we will look into the impact of the hospital on surrounding communities and health facilities, particularly Mona Vale Hospital, Manly Hospital and Royal North Shore Hospital. The committee will also examine the merits of public private partnership arrangements for the provision of healthcare.”

The committee welcomes submissions from interested stakeholders and members of the community.

The closing date for submissions is 28th July 2019 with public hearings to take place later in the year. 

Lodge a Submission online HERE

Public Hearings

Date         Venue Details

26/08/2019 Macquarie Room, Parliament House, Sydney

23/09/2019 Macquarie Room, Parliament House, Sydney

01/10/2019 Macquarie Room, Parliament House, Sydney

05/11/2019 Macquarie Room, Parliament House, Sydney

For further information about the inquiry, including the terms of reference and hearing dates and locations, please visit the committee’s website.

Terms of Reference

1. That Portfolio Committee No. 2 – Health inquire into and report on the operation and management of the Northern Beaches Hospital, and in particular:

(a) the contract and other arrangements establishing the hospital,

(b) changes to the contract and other arrangements since the opening of the hospital,

(c) ongoing arrangements for the operation and maintenance of the hospital,

(d) standards of service provision and care at the hospital,

(e) staffing arrangements and staffing changes at the hospital,

(f) the impact of the hospital on surrounding communities and health facilities, particularly Mona Vale Hospital, Manly Hospital and Royal North Shore Hospital,

(g) the merits of public private partnership arrangements for the provision of health care, and

(h) any other related matter.

2. That the committee report by the first sitting day in 2020. 

Committee membership

Hon Greg Donnelly MLC Australian Labor Party (Chair)

Ms Cate Faehrmann MLC The Greens (Deputy Chair)

Hon Wes Fang MLC The Nationals

Hon Emma Hurst MLC Animal Justice Party

Hon Trevor Khan MLC* The Nationals

Hon Natasha Maclaren-Jones MLC Liberal Party

Hon Walt Secord MLC Australian Labor Party

* The Hon Trevor Khan MLC substituted for the Hon Lou Amato MLC from 11 June 2019 for the duration of the inquiry

NB: This inquiry was established on 6 June 2019 to inquire and report on the operation and management of the Northern Beaches Hospital.

Submissions about individual health care experiences will inform our thinking about the operation and management of the hospital. However, this inquiry will not be conducting investigations or reviews of individual cases.    

Specific concerns about the Northern Beaches Hospital can be raised with the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission by calling 02 9219 7444 or emailing hccc@hccc.nsw.gov.au.