After some further back and forth, by the following week WA Health’s media team indicated I could get the stats, but it would take another week. Fine. The health department’s media team is one of the biggest in the state, but if they needed the time there was little I could do.
A fortnight passed and still nothing. Further queries were met with radio silence.
On May 5, almost a month after my original query, I sent another, which resulted in a phone call telling me the media team could not provide the stats and I would have to request them through a freedom of information process.
They blamed complexity in retrieving these figures from individual hospitals.
If it is too complicated to compile a simple spreadsheet then what does that say about the recordkeeping of our largest and most expensive department?
What does it say about the oversight the health department has over its hospitals if it can’t easily assess how individual hospitals are travelling when it comes to severe, even fatal incidents?
I was also told the department takes its accountability seriously and publishes SAC1 data in a report called Your Health in Our Hands and in health service annual reports every year.
Also a woeful excuse.
The last Your Health in Our Hands report was a 156-page document, compiling SAC1 data across the system, for the 2019-20 financial year, released December 2020. Last year’s annual reports for the metro hospital areas were covering, and released on, a similar timeframe.
Waiting for a report that doesn’t break down SAC1 figures into individual hospitals or the time period where we are continually told the pressure began is not good enough.
The hospital crisis is on the agenda today and taxpayers deserve answers now. Families deserve to know which hospitals are having issues.
It could be that the department hopes to avoid the release of the data now in an effort to minimise fuel on the media fire that has erupted over the health system since February.
It could be that there is actually nothing out of the ordinary.
We have no idea because they won’t release the numbers.
This should be of concern to the broader public. It is the public service and government forgetting who they work for.
They’re there for the betterment of society, not to save the plump hides of the people in charge.
Colleagues have similar stories from their interactions with the health department’s media team, who provide deflective responses one after the other.
This is a government department thumbing their nose at their commitment to transparency and accountability plastered over their mission statement and values web pages, the public service equivalent of a set of Ikea furniture instructions: there to point at in a pinch, but mostly ignored.
I have complete faith in doctors, nurses and other medical staff to do the best with the resources provided to them, but when the public is prevented from seeing where the system is failing it gives bureaucrats no impetus to improve or redesign that resourcing.
Good decision-making comes with checks and balances and input from multiple perspectives. The most important perspective is the broader community’s.
The root cause analysis into Aishwarya’s death said staffing and equipment issues contributed to her poor care the evening she died: a grim validation of the concerns staff across the system had been raising for months.
If we continue to let the people overseeing the failures make decisions on how to solve them without scrutiny from the public, history will repeat.
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