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Byron Shire
May 6, 2021

MPs say public have right to know about alleged fraud at Byron Hospital

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The hallways are buzzing at Byron Central Hospital after last week’s story about alleged fraud at the facility.

The news has also attracted the attention of two members of parliament who are demanding action. This follows comments from the Chief Executive of Northern NSW Local Health District Wayne Jones saying that, ‘All investigations of misconduct are confidential and NNSWLHD does not disclose information about disciplinary actions taken against staff to members of the public or to existing staff.’

NSW Shadow Minister for Health Ryan Park MP and Member for Ballina Tamara Smith MP both feel this particular can of worms needs to be opened.

Public need to know

Ryan Park MP said this is absolutely an issue the public needs to know about.

‘Taxpayers have a right to know whether or not their local hospital is being run in a way that focuses on improving their health and well being and that all staff are carrying out their duties in a professional manner,’ he said.

‘If there are allegations of fraudulent and criminal behaviour this should immediately be referred to police for investigation.’

Tamara Smith MP said that she has requested an urgent meeting with the manager of the Area Health Service, Wayne Jones, to be fully briefed on the investigation into alleged fraudulent conduct at Byron Hospital.

‘I think it is very important to get the facts, and it is very hard for staff and community to feel confident that the alleged behaviours will not happen again without that transparency.

‘I will be asking the manager what systems are in place to ensure conduct of this nature does not happen again, not just at Byron Hospital but any hospital in the district,’ she said.

‘I will also be asking about what the service is doing to support staff at Byron to move on from the recent incidents and to improve the work-culture there moving forward.’

Undermining hospital staff

In a letter to the editor (p15) chief executive of Northern NSW Local Health District Wayne Jones said the previous article on alleged fraud at the hospital (www.echo.net.au/calls-culture-change-byron-hospital-alleged-fraud) ‘only serves to undermine the great work our health workers do every day to care for our residents and help our community achieve better health outcomes.’

Yet, it was workers at the hospital who approached The Echo to alert the communtiy to what had been taking place at the hospital.

A hospital staff member told The Echo on Tuesday that the (alleged) fraudulent activity has harmed the culture at BCH. ‘It’s even more harmful than the nepotism that is still occurring,’ they said. ‘Justice needs to be done and it needs to be seen to have been done.’

The worker also said that it is frustrating that the remaining staff feel that they are being punished and blamed for the actions of senior management.

‘They went into nursing, a caring profession, to then end up taking advantage of government funds,’ said one Byron Hospital staff member.

In his letter Mr Jones  said he ‘can assure the public that our management team is focussed on steering our organisation to deliver excellent health care and ensuring we uphold standards which the public expect and deserve.’

Call for independent inquiry

Ryan Park MP said that after the recent Four Corners investigation revealed serious cultural issues in some of the state’s rural and regional hospitals, he called on the government to establish a full independent inquiry into these smaller hospitals across the state, that focuses on management, funding shortages and staffing.

‘We can’t have a situation where Health is investigating Health, and rural communities have just as much right to have access to high quality health services as those in the major cities.’

Ms Smith said that public monies and public trust are at the heart of our public health system.

‘Any loss of confidence by the community in our incredible nurses, doctors, allied health professionals and hospital staff is unacceptable. We as a community deserve to know what went wrong and how it is being addressed.’

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