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Managing the minefield: Roxon

Posted 18 May 2017

You don’t have to have a PhD in microbiology to play a crucial role on a health board charged with clinical governance, former Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon told the VHA’s governance conference today.

“But you do need to understand where the risks are so you can provide good governance,” said Ms Roxon who is now Chair of the Cancer Council Australia, told the Managing the Minefield event.

“As directors you do need to be persistent if you don’t think management is giving you the right answer. But you can’t chase every little rabbit down every warren, that can be difficult to assess,” she told the conference, attended by many of Victoria’s health board members and CEOs.

“Everyone in this room would not be human if they did not have their heart in their mouth when Bacchus Marsh happened,” she said of the 11 potentially avoidable baby deaths at Bacchus Marsh hospital, operated by Djerriwarrh Health Services.

It was also important to create a culture where people feel safe to speak up, she said.

“You need people to be comfortable when mistakes have been made, otherwise they (staff) won’t report. 

Board directors need to have confidence in senior management.

“You are not the doer, you are the overseer – that can be difficult for people.

“If the CEO is the problem you have an obligation to deal with. It can difficult, but you need to tell the person, before you run off to the government.”

She also advised how best health service boards could get their priorities heard by government. It’s helpful to find out what would be relevant to government’s priorities. 

“Using your peak body can be a very effective way to take your issues to government.

“When I was Federal Health Minister, I don’t think I had a single day where I did not have at least 10 requests for money and the starting price always seemed to be five million dollars!”

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