Three Australian Whistleblowing Sagas: Lessons for Internal and External Regulation
Medical Journal of Australia, Vol. 181, No. 1, pp. 44-47, July 05, 2004
4 Pages Posted: 19 May 2009
Date Written: July 5, 2004
The recent Cambelltown/Camden Hospitals, Canberra Hospital Neurosurgical Services and King Edward Memorial Hospital investigations, all uncovered significant problems with quality and safety in Australian public hospitals. Each investigation arose after whistle blowers contacted politicians directly, their first attempt to use existing clinical governance or quality and safety pathways, having failed in each instance. Existing clinical governance or quality and safety pathways were found to be inadequate and inhibited by a poor institutional culture for self-regulation. None of the substantiated problems were previously detected by the accreditation process at the respective institutions. In each instance, even though the allegations of the whistle blowers were established, those individuals received little respect from their institutions or the profession. Healthcare whistle blowers can occupy a variety of positions ranging from nurses (Campbelltown/Camden Hospitals) and staff specialists (The Canberra Hospital Neurosurgical Services) to CEO’s (King Edward Memorial Hospital). Their contribution to Australian health care quality and safety should be more openly recognized at both institutional and professional levels as a valuable and essential supplement to clinical governance initiatives One suggestion is to use portable digital technology to transform the conscience-based activity of whistle blowing into a culture, not of informing on allegedly dysfunctional institutions or impaired colleagues, but of self-reporting and professional development.
Keywords: whistleblowing, public interest disclosures, healthcare quality and safety, medical error, medical negligence, clinical governance
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