Public hospital senior doctors’ Morale+Engagement survey reinforces crisis engulfing health system | AMA (WA)


Dr Mark Duncan-Smith | AMA (WA)

Public hospital senior doctors’ Morale+Engagement survey reinforces crisis engulfing health system

Tuesday September 28, 2021

Australian Medical Association (WA)

The greatest asset available to WA’s public health system – its medical workforce – is at breaking point, according to the results of the AMA (WA)’s Public Hospital Senior Doctors’ Morale + Engagement (M+E) Survey.

More than 600 senior doctors working in the public sector responded to our questions about culture, morale and engagement, with the feedback providing significant insight into a system cracked open by crises.

AMA (WA) President Dr Mark Duncan-Smith said the results provided damning and disturbing evidence of the health debacle engulfing the State.

“Overall, among hospital service providers, the WA Country Health Service has the poorest ratings when it comes to senior doctor morale,” he said.

“Reinforcing that low status, WorkSafe recently placed a work order on Bunbury Regional Hospital (BRH), giving them 12 months to address their toxic workplace culture.

“Yet morale ratings at Rockingham General Hospital (RGH) and King Edward Memorial Hospital (KEMH) eclipse the horrendously poor morale ratings identified by the AMA (WA) at BRH, which sparked that investigation.”

Dr Duncan-Smith said the recent State Budget had shown the weaknesses in the McGowan Government’s health strategy.

“The Budget gave a boost to capital expenditure while actually driving down operational expenditure over the next two years,” he said.

“A Women and Babies Hospital to replace KEMH, originally announced in December 2020, is included in that expenditure.

“But look at the morale at KEMH, which will provide most of the staff at the new hospital.

“It’s great having new buildings, just not so great having a demoralised workforce – 82 per cent of KEMH senior doctors rated morale as either ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ in our survey.

“It’s operational expenditure that pays the wages and creates the day-to-day conditions that drive a positive workplace culture.”

The AMA (WA) President said a lack of job security was clearly affecting WA’s senior doctors. More than four in five respondents indicated permanent employment would encourage doctors to come and work in WA, that it would improve morale and that its absence was impacting their ability to raise concerns without fear of retribution.

“The provision of permanent contracts in the public system is a key recommendation of the AMA (WA) Action Agenda 2021, our 15-point plan to improve the health system,” Dr Duncan-Smith said.

“It’s obvious from these results how a lack of permanency is affecting the performance of our senior doctors, who are a fundamental cog in the wheel of the public health system.”
Overall, privately-operated public hospitals SJG Midland and Joondalup Health Campus performed comparatively better than other public hospitals in most survey questions.

However, Royal Perth Hospital (RPH) also outperformed many other WA Health public hospitals and in some cases, the privately-operated public hospitals.

Dr Duncan-Smith said the Government needed to learn from the results, which resonated with those in the recently released ‘Your Voice in Health’ staff engagement survey administered by Health Minister Roger Cook.

“Minister Cook needs to consider what sets public-private hospitals apart from most of their public counterparts for morale and engagement.

“Moreover, why is RPH doing better than most?

“The Minister needs to look, learn and act on what he finds. At the same time, acting on the recommendations of the AMA (WA) Action Agenda 2021 has the potential to turn around many of these issues relatively quickly.

“There is no such thing as a quick fix in health but there are a series of things that could really make a difference, and make a difference now.

“The morale of our senior doctors can’t wait much longer for a remedy and the health system is well past the point of band-aid solutions.

“We are well down the path of a full-blown health crisis in this State and the damning findings of the M+E Survey simply corroborate everything we know about the extent to which the system has broken down.”

M+E Survey Results

To read the AMA (WA) Action Agenda 2021, click here