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AustraliaChildren's hospital doctors fear jobs are on the line after warning

12:35  17 july  2019
12:35  17 july  2019 Source:   smh.com.au

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Doctors say they are fearful about speaking out on patient safety after they were reminded of the code of conduct. Doctors at the centre of a dispute over children ' s heart surgery in NSW have been warned by their bosses not to make public comments that may cause distress, in what they fear is an

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Children's hospital doctors fear jobs are on the line after warning© Peter Braig Doctors say they are fearful of speaking out on public safety after receiving warning letters.

Doctors at the centre of a dispute over children's heart surgery in NSW have been warned by their bosses not to make public comments that may cause distress, in what they fear is an attempt to silence them.

Medical staff at the Sydney Children's Hospital in Randwick have been campaigning against the reduction of cardiac surgery at their hospital, which they believe will downgrade the entire hospital and endanger children's lives.

Paediatric orthopaedic surgeons Michael Solomon and Angus Gray and paediatric haemotologist oncologist Susan Russell, who is the chair of the medical staff council, received letters from the Sydney Children's Hospital Network (SCHN) reminding them of the code of conduct after they made comments about children's heart surgery.

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Dr Gray and Dr Russell, who had written opinion pieces about the impact of losing cardiac surgery, were required to respond confirming they understood and accepted their obligations under the code.

"While I accept that staff are free to speak up on issues of concern, and I recognise that your comments are driven by your commitment to Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick this does not extend to circulating statements which make cause staff or community distress," the letter said.

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Dr Gray said he was concerned for his job.

"We've said these things in good faith and it's being interpreted by the Department of Health as breaching the code and that creates a concern for us," he said.

Dr Solomon, who had written a flyer responding to reported comments by Westmead staff that Sydney should only have one children's hospital, was told that his communication had caused "serious distress".

It is understood that Westmead staff believe their comments were taken out of context.

Dr Solomon's flyer, headlined "Today's Headlines", said children's lives and nurses' jobs were at risk.

"While I respect your right ... to speak up on issues, I also feel our first thought should be for our patients and to ensure we are measured and accurate in our communications," the letter to Dr Solomon said.

"The Sydney Children's Hospital (SCH) is not at risk. Children's lives are not at risk. Nurses jobs are not at risk.

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"I would therefore request that you stop circulating unhelpful and inaccurate speculation and further, that you revisit the NSW Health Code of Conduct in particular at s4.3 acting professionally and ethically."

Dr Solomon said doctors had a duty to speak up on matters of public safety.

"Having received such letters, we're now in fear of speaking up," Dr Solomon said.

The code of conduct requires staff to avoid conduct that could bring NSW Health or any of its staff into disrepute and to act in a way that "protects and promotes" the organisation.

SCHN chief executive Cheryl McCullagh said the executive always supported its staff to publicly advocate for the best interests of children.

"While we will not discuss individual staff matters, there is a clear code of conduct in place that all employees of NSW Health are required to follow," Associate Professor McCullagh said.

"This code enables us to protect the privacy and wellbeing of all staff, patients and families, and to ensure that accurate information is communicated to the public."

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