Western Australia has so far been the standout in refusing to do a deal with the Feds on national health reform. While this has been widely attributed to the partisan politics involved, perhaps there are broader cultural issues also at play?
The West has been known to regard those self-absorbed Easterners with some suspicion.
Professor Gavin Mooney has been wondering why the WA Health Department has a tendency to appoint from the home-team. He writes:
“The WA Health Department has a new Director General – or rather the Acting DG, Kim Snowball, has been appointed permanently.
This position carries a salary of $540,000 – not bad in Australian terms and indeed international terms for heading up a health service for just 2 million people.
Here in the West, we’ve had a few different Health DGs in recent years. Interesting that each time the post is to be filled, it is indicated that it is to be advertised internationally. Maybe that is true but what is intriguing is that, on each of the last four occasions, the position has been filled by a local lad, local not just to Australia but local to WA.
Kim Snowball was previously head of Country Health in WA, which is not a particularly senior position. Prior to that he headed up a private hospital in the town of Geraldton, north of Perth. Not quite the track record one would ideally want for a new DG.
Before that we had Peter Flett, a local WA clinician. Again is that sort of experience really what we are looking for in a Health DG? And going back further, the previous incumbent was Neale Fong whose main claim to fame as a health service bureaucrat before being appointed was running a private hospital in Perth. And before that there was Mike Daube. The biggest health bureaucracy he ran previously was the WA Cancer Council.
Yet on each occasion, presumably against interstate and international opposition, these local lads were deemed to the best people for the job.
Maybe we simply cannot attract good applicants from interstate or overseas. And maybe we simply believe that home grown lads are best anyway. And maybe there is a desire not to rock the boat and disturb the cosy local arrangements that are in place for the governance of the WA health service.
The committee which oversaw the recommendation of the appointment of our latest DG was, I believe, composed of three locals. Would it not have been a good idea to have at least one person from interstate on that committee? But then maybe we don’t need anyone from outside WA to help us to make such choices.
I have previously thought that, given the enormous influence that the state AMA has on health service policy in WA, it would be simpler and more transparent to appoint the president of the WA AMA as the Health DG.
But, I know, that is a silly suggestion.
Next best is simply to have a local boy who knows how things work locally and can ‘fit in’.
Who knows? Maybe there is just something in the WA air that means that here in WA, we produce really good candidates for the position of WA Health DG.”
Croakey writes: Do other state and territory health bureaucracies tend to appoint to the top jobs from within? Or is WA really the exception? Keen to hear what Croakey readers know about these matters….