NT Health Department prepares to fire hospital chiefs in Darwin, Alice Springs, AMA says

The chief executive of the Northern Territory’s health department is considering sacking all hospital department heads in Darwin and Alice Springs, according to the Australian Medical Association.

It comes amid a rise in flu and COVID-19 cases in the Northern Territory, which has exacerbated staffing and bed shortages in hospitals.

On Tuesday morning, the chairman of the Australian Medical Association Northern Territory, Robert Parker, said sources had informed him that department heads would be sacked in Darwin this Thursday and in Alice Springs next Thursday.

He described the decision as “a big drama that is…likely to have a significant impact” on hospitals.

“All heads of hospital departments must be fired and reappointed,” Dr. Parker told ABC Radio Darwin.

“I have had very reliable information from various sources.

Dr Parker said firing department heads would reflect a “culture of blame” within NT Health. (ABC News: Michael Franchi)

Dr Parker said the layoffs would be “a particularly ill-timed move” amid increased pressure on hospitals in the Northern Territory.

“With increased pressure from GP clinics removing bulk billing, and with the peak of COVID, we are going to have all the vacancies for [positions such as] surgery, medicine, anesthesia, obstetrics and gynecology – the department heads,” he said.

Dr Parker said he had not heard an explanation as to why the layoffs would take place.

He also said he was unaware of any precedent for such a move by the Department of Health.

The ABC has contacted NT Health and the office of Health Minister Natasha Fyles for comment.

“A desire to punish medical personnel”

Dr Parker said he believed the Department of Health was planning to fire hospital chiefs in a bid to deflect blame for the long-term underfunding of the Northern Territory health system.

“These doctors who are the department heads have been keeping the healthcare system going for years. It’s been underfunded for years,” he said.

“I think it has something to do with a desire by the Ministry of Health to punish medical staff for what they perceive to be a significant failure, when in reality it is the medical staff, who are very well supported. by the nursing staff and all other hospital staff, who kept the hospital running.

Alice Springs Hospital
Dr Parker said he was told the Alice Springs hospital chiefs would be sacked next Thursday.(ABC News: Steven Schubert)

When asked what the perceived failures were, Dr Parker cited long-standing issues such as pressure on hospital beds and emergency departments.

“Suddenly they decided to blame the medical staff for this rather than looking at the funding situation where hospitals in the Northern Territory have been chronically underfunded for the past 15 years or so,” he said.

Dr Parker said if hospital department head positions were suddenly declared vacant it would create “significant anxiety”.

“It indicates a significant lack of confidence on the part of the chief executive in this high-profile medical group which has essentially been between keeping the Northern Territory health system together,” he said.

“It’s a culture of blame, and it then has a significant impact on the morale and confidence of medical staff to continue in their work and lead departments, which they have done so well for many years.”

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