SafetyAtWorkBlog has been following the aftermath of the rape and assault of a nurse working in a remote area of Australia for well over a year. The issue has many personal and political aspects to it. The most recent blog mention was the demotion of the CEO of the Torres Strait District Health Service.
Queensland is in the middle of a close election campaign and the Premier Anna Bligh on 11 March 2009 made an extraordinary move of removing the responsibility for employee housing from the Department of Health to the Department of Public Works. Bligh was also scathing of her own ministers. Her statement is below.
What Bligh’s decision seems to affect is a removal of the OHS obligations for a safe and healthy work environment from the organisation that is the employer of the health staff. This will obviously need some clarification.
It may mean that Queensland Health may have to be the go-between between staff requests for repairs and the agency that undertakes the repairs. It is doubtful that such an administrative process will be any quicker than what has already occurred – a process that Bligh says “does not meet a reasonable timeframe”.
The broader political messages for the Premier’s Cabinet colleagues is discussed in an article in today’s Australian newspaper.
The issue of the security of government employees was again in the media when commonwealth government-employed staff were attacked in remote areas of Australia.
“Statement by Premier – health staff housing
This afternoon I have spoken with both the Health Minister and the Director General of Queensland Health and have been advised as follows:
- All health staff houses classified as extreme or high risk by the audit in the Torres Strait region have had all required work completed
- Two of the 101 houses identified are no longer used for staff accommodation and the remaining 99 have all had locks checked and passed inspection or had new locks fitted
- To date, 45 houses have had all work completed
- Further work to be completed on the remaining 54 houses includes additional work such as the installation of path lighting
However, even though progress on this work is on-going in regional centres, it has failed to meet a reasonable time frame.
This failure to meet a reasonable time frame highlights that the core business of Queensland Health is running our hospitals and other health facilities and taking care of sick Queenslanders – not the business of maintaining staff accommodation and housing.
Accordingly, today I have directed that responsibility for health staff accommodation maintenance and upgrading be transferred in full to the Department of Public Works.
Further, I have directed that the work on this staff housing be completed by Easter.
It is completely unacceptable that this work has taken such a long period of time to bring to this standard and I’ve made this absolutely clear to both the Minister and the Director General.
From tomorrow, Queensland Health will no longer be responsible for staff accommodation.”