SYDNEY, Australia: Northern Beaches Hospital Interim chief apologized for the public-private facility’s early administrative and healthcare failures but insisted that the facility did not open prematurely.
A New South Wales upper house inquiry into the Frenchs Forest hospital was initiated on Monday after the opposition successfully sought the probe in June, alleging that it had “lurched from crisis to crisis” since its launch in 2018.
The inquiry will scrutinize the running of the hospital, standards of service, staffing and public-private partnership arrangements in healthcare.
Reports have indicated a litany of problems at the $600 million facility, such as a lack of basic medical supplies and staffing issues.
Six senior appointees, including the chief of medicine, medical director and director of nursing had resigned soon after opening.
Interim hospital chief executive Richard Royle said, “Private contractor Healthscope had received the green light to open from independent certifiers – but failed in its recruitment and IT systems.”
“The fact the problems encountered in the early days of the hospital’s operation were more significant than should’ve been the case is a failure on the part of our company and for that, we apologize,” Royle revealed during the probe.
Healthscope acknowledged that they had been penalized for missing key performance indicators at the hospital, citing the health department’s 20-year contract stipulating cost “abatements” in the case of poor service.
The company professed that 17 patients had spent more than 24 hours in the emergency department instead of being admitted to a ward or discharged. At least two patients had suffered “sentinel events”, or serious and preventable medical errors.
The operators refuted that the patients were pressured to elect private hospital care over public care.
Healthscope state manager Stephen Gameren said, “We take those claims very seriously and we’ll review our literature we provide to patients.”
NSW Health officials rejected shadow treasurer Walt Secord’s assertion that the hospital was guilty of “healthcare apartheid” by providing better care to private patients than those in the public system.
Deputy secretary Nigel Lyons said the hospital was obliged to provide equal public-private care.
“The contractor is obligated to provide public care at the same level as we’d expect for any public hospital in NSW,” Dr. Lyons said.
He further said, “We have very rigorous processes for assessing performance of the operator and we’ve taken a position that, yes, there will be some issues with commissioning a new hospital, and those emerged, but also we’ve worked very closely with the operator to ensure those were addressed.”
The Northern Sydney Local Health District Chief Executive Deborah Willcox asserted that the hospital demonstrated improvement in its operations since its launch and moved up against Manly and Mona Vale hospitals.
The head of the union representing NSW doctors had previously claimed that the hospital was ‘not safe’ for patients.