WA News Guest Opinion / Editorial Words! Words! Words!
Words! Words! Words!
Written by Jan Hallam
Monday, 02 October 2017

So, another state budget has been delivered with the usual quota of infographs (a lot of red!) and analysis from the usual suspects. And doesn’t it sound like Groundhog Day?

  • “Broken Promises” Check
  • “Missing money for health commitments” Check
  • “Fiscal black holes” Check
  • “No funds for ageing infrastructure” Check
  • “We will honour commitments” Check

We are at war … and it’s a war of words.

And just like the industrial military complex, an over-sized industry has sprung up around the demand for words, which are minted in the workshops for select use, turned into wordy statements and then fired at us by the Talking Heads. But be warned, the payload doesn’t explode until it appears in a headline on a media platform somewhere.

On and on it goes.

In this edition we take a look at the very early days of the Sustainable Health Review, which has the potential like all government reviews to sink into the mire of words.

While it may not be apparent immediately, dare we hope that this review may be a different beast? That it might actually be a creative, collaborative, consultative and constructive process – the four Cs so beloved of bureaucrats everywhere, rather than a razor gang.

Well, the early signs are promising … for starters, it’s headed by an ‘out-of-towner’. Ms Robyn Kruk has vast health system experience – from SOMEWHERE ELSE! Fresh eyes, fresh ears and fresh mind. In short, a breath of fresh air who can take ‘without fear or favour’ to heights rarely experienced in Western Australia.

We’ve also been told there is no cost-savings target, which could mean that everything is fair game or the review panel has an open mind and a keen eye. We also hear the panel is talking to people on the ground and by all accounts consumer and clinical committees were swamped by interested people wanting to take part. In the spirit of constructive comment, we will push down the enemy C word – cynicism – at this point.

We know from many readers, the heightened levels of frustration within the profession about a system which has tied itself up so securely in quality and safety tape that the most important C word (albeit hyphenated) of all – common-sense – has been completely forgotten.

A good start would be to do a common-sense audit of policies and procedures because unless some space for innovation can be made, we will be faced with a 200-page report that will be full of comforting words for politicians and cold comfort for the 40,000 people working in the system and the million-plus people paying $8.9b in bills.

Bureaucrats need to fall in love with transparency and accountability because without these we will have no lasting reform or revitalisation. The good news story will be a system that is sustainable and accountable – in fact that’s almost all the safety and quality tape you need.

In return, those sitting on the sidelines – politicians, media, employee and employer representative bodies – need to change their tune. It’s easy to lob a few negatives to grab attention, much harder to be part of a constructive conversation. Surely this happens behind closed doors, so why the cheap shots for a public growing increasing tired of words from men (mostly) in high places.

Everyone has their work to do… so in the immortal words of Eliza Doolittle:

Sing me no song!
Read me no rhyme!
Don't waste my time,
Show me!