Chris Crawford.
Chris Crawford. Jay Cronan

84 clinicians call for Northern Rivers health boss to quit

A RIFT between senior doctors and management of the Northern NSW Local Health District has gone public with calls made for the board's chief Chris Crawford to be sacked.

Eighty-four senior Northern Rivers clinicians signed a petition calling for Mr Crawford to resign or be dismissed.

The appeal stems from the standing-down of former Lismore Base Hospital obstetrician Dr Glen Taylor last year after "serious accusations" were made against him.

An independent review board exonerated Dr Taylor of any wrongdoing.

He rejected an offer to resume his post following the review and now has legal action pending against the NNSW Local Health District in the Supreme Court.

Lismore Base Hospital medical staff council chair Chris Ingall said doctors across the Northern Rivers had lost confidence in Mr Crawford's governance.

"We were very saddened to lose such a fine physician (Dr Taylor) from our region," Dr Ingall said.

"He is held in very high regard by all specialists at Lismore Base Hospital and has been completely exonerated of all charges brought against him.

"As a group, we are still very concerned the same thing could happen again.

"We are not at all reassured by the actions of Mr Crawford or the board on this matter."

Northern Rivers health professionals kept quiet on the matter, at least publicly, until Wednesday when Labor MP Andrew McDonald brought their concerns to Health Minister Jillian Skinner in NSW Parliament.

She has 35 days to respond to the questions on notice.

"We are most grateful as a doctors' group to have Andrew McDonald trying to bring some clarity from the minister on this issue," Dr Ingall said.

"This all happened in January last year and we have waited for due process to occur . . . but we were not at all reassured by Mr Crawford's response.

"There was certainly no apology offered.

"Trust has been broken.

"We are just protecting the doctors' group by doing this, so this arbitrary standing-down won't happen again."

The petition calling for Mr Crawford's resignation was submitted to the health board but does not appear anywhere in its meeting minutes on its website.

"You'd be forgiven for thinking this matter was never brought before the board," Dr Ingall said.

"We have had no correspondence come in and there is nothing in the minutes about it."

Board chair Dr Brian Pezzutti would not comment on the particulars of Dr Taylor's standing-down until his legal action went through the courts.

Dr Pezzutti said the board had full confidence in Mr Crawford.

"We had a formal appraisal three weeks ago and gave him a very high rating," Dr Pezzutti said.

"Mr Crawford will not be resigning and the board will not be calling for his resignation."

Dr Pezzutti said the board had invited Dr Taylor to return to work following his exoneration.

"There was an investigation which found there was no charge for Dr Taylor to answer," Dr Pezzutti said.

"He was invited to rejoin the hospital and declined to do so.

"Of course, any complaint against anybody has to be investigated.

"Nobody is immune.

"Depending on how serious the complaint is, sometimes people get stood down.

"The end result was Dr Taylor was found not to be at fault, he was reinstated but he declined to come back to work here.

"Now he is litigating in the Supreme Court."

Mr Crawford was offered an opportunity to respond to the claims and said he had no plans to leave his job and he still had the support of the board.

THE THREE QUESTIONS PUT IN PARLIAMENT:

Health Minister Jillian Skinner was given 35 days to respond to the following questions:

1.  Has the Minister, her office, or the Ministry of Health been made aware of the standing down of a senior clinician from Lismore Base Hospital in January 2013?

2. On what date or dates did the Board of the Northern New South Wales Local Health District discuss the standing down of a senior clinician at Lismore Base Hospital in 2013?

a. What conclusion was reached at these board meetings?

b. Were the minutes of these board meetings made available to affected parties?

3.  Has the Minister, her office, or the Ministry of Health received or been made aware of a petition of 84 senior clinicians requesting the resignation of the chief executive of the Northern New South Wales Local Health District in May 2013?

a. If so, what response was given to the petition?



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