NCAHS stance angers doctor

THE author of a highly critical report into the performance of Grafton Base Hospital’s emergency department is fuming at the North Coast Area Health Service’s description of his work as an ‘unsolicited letter’.

Report author Dr Peter Wirth is an acknowledged expert in the field of emergency medicine and worked at GBH earlier this year as a locum medical officer.

He said media reports that NCAHS executive officer Chris Crawford had yesterday described his report as an ‘unsolicited letter’ made him angry.

“It is accurate that I wasn’t paid anything over and above my work, but I was certainly one of two doctors brought in with the specific request of writing a report,” Dr Wirth said.

“So it’s not my misunderstanding, it was two of us.”

Dr Wirth said the eight-page document, titled Grafton Base Hospital Report into Staffing and Performance in Emergency Department, was handed to the director of medical services at GBH at the same time as a colleague, the locum director of medical services (DMS), handed in his report.

Dr Wirth, who founded Aus.e.Med, a body of emergency medicine specialists that provided improvements to the care of patients by creating integrated care services, said the request for a report was verbal rather than written.

“What I got in writing was: would I help out in a work way? But what I was asked verbally was much more explicitly requesting a report,” he said.

“And that was over the phone and face to face. As was the other doctor. He also described it as being very clearly directed to write a report with observations and recommendations about staffing of the emergency department. When concerns were raised before writing the report I checked with the Minister’s office ... and I was reassured that I should write a frank and forthright report without fear or favour.

“When I alluded then to rumoured risk to me, they advised me to write it bluntly and honestly and I did so with the only aim of trying to assist the staff and community. It was my affection for your community and staff that made me want to take this as far as it would go.”

Dr Wirth said he would only be guessing at the reasons NCAHS senior management wanted to dismiss his report in this way.

“I’m not alleging that the report has been buried or suppressed and I’m bemused about why my report would be restricted from the likes of (Member for Clarence) Steve Cansdell or anybody else,” Dr Wirth said.

“Because I haven’t said anything ... that wasn’t cost neutral or cost saving as a way of improving the service in the department.

“So I don’t think that anything I have suggested or recommended is problematic and it bemuses me that access to this report is being restricted.”

After undertaking in good faith to write a report, Dr Wirth is now worried about what this means for his future employability in NSW.

“This distresses me because the way this is being portrayed is that I’ve just come up there to cause trouble and written a report – or letter – without any invitation,” Dr Wirth said.

“I would like it clarified that A: that I was asked and did what I was asked to do in good faith, and that, B: it’s caused me untold grief, the reaction to my report from senior management or senior administration has been very troublesome.

“I also want it very clearly stated that I did not leak that report to anybody. Steve Cansdell confirmed to me this morning where he got the report from and that it was not from me and that I have honoured my undertaking to the hospital and network that I wouldn’t leak it.”

Mr Crawford said NCAHS had not commissioned a report from Dr Wirth as it had not set any terms of reference. He was also unsure how Mr Cansdell became aware of details Dr Wirth had provided.

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