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Rheumatologist takes over as CEO of health district amid scandals and staff uprising

Health Industry Hub | June 6, 2024 |

Medical: The chief executive overseeing five inner Sydney hospitals was ousted after a year of escalating turmoil, with medical staff openly revolting against her leadership and prompting an intervention from the state’s health minister.

Dr Teresa Anderson, a speech pathologist by training, was at the helm of the Sydney Local Health District since 2011. Her forced departure follows a damning vote of no confidence by the medical staff council at Concord Hospital, a clear sign of the deep-seated discontent under her watch.

Dr Bethina Richards has stepped into Anderson’s embattled role from her former position as the Chief Medical Wellness Officer and Director of the SLHD MDOK Centre, a pioneering initiative in Australia. She is also Head of the Department of Rheumatology at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH), Australia, Co- Director of the Institute for Musculoskeletal Health, Sydney Local Health District and Senior lecturer, University of Sydney.

The leadership shake-up comes in the wake of shocking revelations and widespread discontent. Sydney cardiologist Professor Ian Wilcox, a veteran at RPAH, revealed the pervasive fear among staff, stating, “everyone knows someone who’s been managed” for daring to raise concerns.

In addition, a scandal involving a backlog of over 30,000 unreported scans and accusations of a toxic workplace culture forced NSW Health Minister Ryan Park to step in, announcing the appointment of mediators to investigate these explosive allegations.

These issues are not isolated to the Sydney Local Health District. Associate Professor Viraj Kariyawasam, a gastroenterologist and head of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Service at Blacktown and Mount Druitt Hospital, exposed the broader culture of intimidation within NSW Health.

He stated, “Behind the scenes, those who dare to speak up are facing backlash and intimidation, often utilising outdated government employee laws and systems to ensure they leave the system. It’s a concerning truth that amidst efforts to improve, a culture of fear and suppression seems to be taking hold.”

In a controversial twist, Dr Anderson has landed a new role as head of the newly announced Single Digital Patient Record (SDPR) implementation authority. This $1 billion project, in partnership with eHealth NSW, aims to roll out the country’s largest electronic medical record system covering over eight million people. The move raises questions about leadership accountability and oversight within NSW Health.

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