Health Service Chief Executive resigns

Umit Agis PICTURE: BDT

Umit Agis, the Far West Local Health (FWLHD) Service Chief Executive has resigned.

Mr Agis has been head of the service during a contentious and troubling period including the Coroner’s report into Alex Braes’ death, the Rural and Remote Health Inquiry (RRHI) , COVID 19, and a long period of poor staff retention and industrial unrest.

There has also been an ombudsmen report referred to in the RRHI that reviewed systemic failures at Broken Hill Health Service.

He has seen the introduction of the Safe Haven service assisting people in mental distress, Virtual Reality Intensive Care Services which has experts in Intensive Care in Sydney working with our local team, and a planned renovation of the Emergency Department to be reconfigured for improved safe spaces for children and mental health assessment.

Mr Agis also presided over the FWLHD COVID 19 response, which saw a high vaccination rate of first and second shots, high rate of vaccinations for five to sixteen year olds and, sadly, the rapid spread of COVID 19 in Wilcannia.

Troubling times

Mr Agis restructured the Executive in 2020 and changed the Broken Hill Health Service management by removing the Hospital General Manager’s position and incorporating that within the role of the Director of Nursing and Midwifery (DONM).

This has regrettably seen the DONM position develop a rapid turn over rate with most people holding the position for around five months.

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One person only lasted eight days in the position.

Research into nursing leadership suggests that retaining your leaders is imperative in maintaining staff morale and effective skills.

Despite this constant turnover, the General Health Managers position has not been returned.

The Executive team has also seen a rapid turn over and numerous positions being held by Acting Directors.

The new position of Director of Performance and Strategy has had six people acting in the position in two years with the longest staying for eight months.

Another new position, Director of Clinical Operations (DCO), has had three short term workers the longest being nine months with the now acting DCO having held the position for six months with a further extension until September.

The Coroners report into Alex Braes was a difficult period for people who knew him and those who treated him.

The health workers at the time of Alex’s presentation reported they didn’t like the Business Rule of not taking vital statistics at triage but were encouraged not to do so.

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Since the tragic loss of Alex this rule has been dropped and everyone presenting has their vital signs taken.
A bad day at the office

The Rural and Remote Health Inquiry saw Mr Agis being attacked by Senator Walt Secord, one of the Senators on the inquiry panel, “Mr Agis, for your opening statement. I have been on this Committee since the very beginning. I have to say that is the most deficient opening statement I have heard. Your local health district has been under enormous pressure. I would have expected an apology in your opening statement. There has been an Ombudsman’s investigation into systematic failures in your health district—and not an apology! You have had patient suicides. You have had preventable deaths. You have had 30 nurses leave in a two-year period. You have had 10 out of 18 senior doctors leave the town. Can you please explain to the Committee what is happening at Broken Hill Hospital?”

Although the waiting times at the Broken Hill Health Service has improved by 18 per cent the loss of the Fast Track Service has been felt acutely. A GP service attached to the Emergency Department was dissolved into the emergency department with local doctors employed to see the patients that would have normally gone to Fast Track.
On the surface this seems to be a winner with the decrease in waiting times recorded in the 2021 figures, however it is the loss of a service and increases the pressure on the Emergency

Department.

New Acting FWLHD Chief Executive Brad Astill, Executive Director, System Performance Support, will act as FWLHD Chief Executive from 15 July 2022 until recruitment for the CE role is finalised.

This isn’t the first time Mr Astill has held this position having sat in the seat after Stephen Rodwell left in 2019.

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