REVEALED: Leaked document shows hospital bed shortage fears
IPSWICH'S public health system is about to undergo a major shake-up.
An internal document sent to staff this month, obtained by the QT, outlines drastic plans for a dramatic restructure to prevent a significant bed shortage within the next 10 years as the region's population booms.
That includes the creation of new executive positions, the removal of an entire management level, a change in medical reporting lines and the creation of a new position for a dedicated director of rural health.
Ipswich is already experiencing a bed shortage with numbers well below the state average.
West Moreton Hospital and Health Service - a $540 million organisation with 3500 staff - began developing the proposed changes last year.
But the proposal wasn't finalised until the new interim chief executive Dr Kerrie Freeman (pictured) arrived shortly after former health boss Sue McKee's sudden departure in late January.
West Moreton says the restructure, detailed in the document Business Case for Change, has nothing to do with cost-saving; it's about ensuring the region is able to cope with future health needs in an area where chronic illness such as obesity and heart disease is already a major issue.
While nine management positions will disappear, the restructure isn't expected to result in job losses and won't cost the taxpayers.
A total of 17 management positions have been removed or changed.
West Moreton's population is expected to hit 600,000 over the next 20 years, up from 200,000 this year.
At 1.64 beds per 1000 people, compared to the state average of 2.1 per 1000 people, Ipswich Hospital is already experiencing significant bed shortages.
In a letter addressed to West Moreton staff, dated March 22, Dr Freeman said the health service would need to adapt to meet future challenges.
"The West Moreton region is growing at an unprecedented rate, with its population set to more than double to 600,000 in the next 20 years," the letter read.
"With higher than average chronic disease and obesity, our health service will need to adapt to meet these challenges. Following feedback from staff, the executive team and I have agreed on the pressing need to resolve any remaining questions about structure and provide staff with a clear direction..."
When asked, West Moreton Hospital and Health Service was forthcoming with information and rejected suggestions the organisation would appear "top heavy", saying the number of executive positions was in line with similar organisations.
"The number of executives is not out of step with a contemporary structure in an over $540 million health organisation with over 3500 staff," Dr Freeman said.
"The proposed structure provides an integrated governance approach, ensuring high-quality clinical and corporate leadership.
"The proposed structure is cost neutral - this is about setting the organisation up to deliver the strategic plan, not adding in additional management costs."
The new structure will be implemented in July following consultation.