BURNETT MP: ‘It’s easier to get a new chair than CEO’
BURNETT MP Stephen Bennett has used parliamentary privilege to air extraordinary questions about the sacking of Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service CEO Adrian Pennington.
On the floor of parliament yesterday, Mr Bennett said the dismissal was handled in a way "designed to cause maximum damage and to destroy (Adrian's) credibility and future prospects".
But Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service board chair Peta Jamieson responded to say the decision to terminate was very carefully considered and not made lightly.
Last month Mr Pennington was "terminated, effective immediately" from his post as the region's health boss by Ms Jamieson.
Mr Bennett raised seven questions in parliament, calling for public transparency on a number of issues in the lead up to Mr Pennington's sacking and his treatment post firing.
"To be stripped of phone, car, given a cab charge and then marched to the hospital entrance destroyed any dignity left in this sordid affair," he said.
"We need a full external investigation of the chair's actions of the so called sacking of the CE.
"This is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
"WBHHS will lose staff and will not tolerate working with this board chair, losing two board members already is bad enough but I say to those staff, especially in executive positions, 'hang in there, things will change, and know we respect you'."
One of Mr Bennett's questions was about the support that was offered to Mr Pennington in the light of his mental health crisis.
"Sources have indicated that contrary to statements made by the chair last week in the media Mr Pennington has been offered no support by the WBHHS at all and his mental health is in a fragile state, and in addition the Board Chair has banned anyone in the WBHHS to contact Mr Pennington, how does this provide support?," Mr Bennett said.
When the NewsMail initially reported the mental health crisis Mr Pennington had, Ms Jamieson said: "I am very concerned about any impacts on Adrian's health and wellbeing, and I have personally asked the HHS to provide any support Adrian may need, as I have done previously.
"It is concerning that anyone is prepared to share the details of what was clearly a difficult time for Adrian.
"The board is aware of the Facebook post. The post on its own was not a key factor in Adrian's termination.
"Since making the post, Adrian has apologised to me in person for the comment he made in reference to me in the Facebook post and I accepted his apology.
"Our focus immediately after the post was on Adrian to ensure he was all right, and to give him the time and support he needed.
"He was also offered further support.
"As I have said previously, there are details I'm not prepared to talk about for a number of reasons, including out of respect for Adrian's privacy."
Mr Bennett has also thrown the health minister into the spotlight, stating that "when this high preforming HHS performance starts to slide, and it will, it will be the Minister's fault for not acting sooner".
He said it would be easier to find a new board chair than another high performing chief executive and believes this chain of events has jeopardised any future health professionals coming to the region to work if "this is the new low standard".
In relation to the saga, a spokesperson for the Health Minister Steven Miles previously said the minister has received materials about the matter and had requested additional advice and information prior to an assessment being made.
"It would be inappropriate for him to comment on the matter while this process is underway," the spokesperson said.
Mr Bennett also aired his concerns for the momentum behind major projects in the region like the new hospital.
Ms Jamieson said she was unable to comment any further on the HR process while it is still under way, for privacy and confidentiality reasons.
"As I have previously offered publicly, I am happy to meet with anyone, including Mr Bennett, at any time," she said.
"In relation to the Bundaberg Hospital project, development of the detailed business case remains a priority and work is proceeding as normal."
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MP's parliament questions:
1. Was Adrian Pennington the Chief Executive put on special leave or terminated as claimed on 30 sept email to 4000 Staff.
2. Why after seven years excellent service was the Australian CE of the year marched out of the hospital and treated so poorly?
3. What reasons were given for his dismissal and did they directly relate to a mental health crisis.?
4. Will the Minister call for a review of events prior to Mr Pennington's crisis event and FB post and how he was managed leading up to his dismissal?
5. Can the Minister confirm that this was not a personal vendetta and that any complaints used to terminate the CE were thoroughly investigated independently of the Board Chair.
6. Was the appointment of Lisa Desmond former CEO Fraser Coast Council anything to do with Mr Pennington's dismissal?
7. Exactly what mental health support has been provided to Mr Pennington since he was escorted from the Bundaberg hospital last week? (Sources have indicated that contrary to statements made by Board Chair last week in the media Mr Pennington has been offered no support by the WBHHS at all and his mental health is in a fragile state, and in addition the Board Chair has banned anyone in the WBHHS to contact Mr Pennington, how does this provide support?)