In response to yet more allegations of sexual abuse and humiliation of women by some members of the Australian army, the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, AO, posted a message on YouTube to the Australian Army. The statement has already had over 80,000 650,000 997,000 1,332,905 , 1,463,710 hits on YouTube.

General Morrison’s statement has been widely lauded as one of the most powerful examples of genuine Leadership that we have seen in public life in many a year. It is a stunning display of controlled anger and concern combined with a laser focus on values and integrity, utterly unencumbered by any of the usual spin-doctoring that normally pollutes such public pronouncements by our ‘leaders’.

I wondered, as did many who watched him, why we do not have such clarity of purpose and values and such demonstrable integrity in politics and public service in general. Why, for example, don’t we have a Minister of Health or Health CEO anywhere capable of setting out such a values driven vision for Health Care?

In the wake of some of the ‘health scandals’ that we have experienced here in Australia such as Garling and Bundaberg and those that have preoccupied the UK such as the Francis Report, I couldn’t help but wonder what the General’s address might have been like if he was in charge of Health Care.

Imagine hearing this:

“I have spoken to the media today in response to reports that some members of our health services have systematically betrayed the people that they are charged with serving and caring for. I cannot go into individual details today but I can tell these people that from this day hence, there will be no place for them to hide.

A small but significant group of staff, policy makers and politicians, through their actions and inactions have blighted and undermined the foundational values that we stand for and hold dear in health care. This minority and their metasteses have been found at every level in our health organisations, from ministerial offices and executive boardrooms to the wards and communities of clinical practice.

Through their demeaning and contemptuous treatment of patients and colleagues these staff have made it abundantly clear that they have no place in a modern health service.
Our health service is here to care for people at some of life’s lowest ebbs and most fearful moments and to provide this care with compassion, kindness, creativity and competence. These are not luxuries or optional extras, so if you cannot or will not create the culture that enables such care, or will not provide such care, get out of health care now and make room for people who can.

Healthcare is also based on teamwork and inclusivity where every health professional, manager, support worker and indeed patient, makes a valued contribution to care. What is most galling in these reports is the behaviour of some of our senior people who have a clear leadership role. If you think that your power and influence make it acceptable to create a toxic culture of fear, intimidation and silence where staff or patients are humiliated, belittled and browbeaten and where your default position is to cover up, I am here to tell you today that your days in healthcare are numbered. I don’t care whether you are the Minister of Health, a CEO or a clinical leader. If you cannot live up to the highest of values that we set for our health service, then find somewhere else to work.

Our health service exists first and foremost to serve our patients, clients and communities. It is not here primarily to guarantee you a power base or a job for life regardless of your performance, or to pay your mortgage or your kids’ school fees.

Poor care, negligence, abuse, bullying, humiliation and thuggery are intolerable and we will root them out. If you stand by in silence and lack the moral and professional courage to challenge these affronts to our culture, our values and to human decency, you are as culpable as the perpetrators. We want staff with moral courage who know the right thing to do and who do the right thing. ‘The standard that you walk past is the standard you accept’.

Our health service has a proud history and tradition of caring for and serving others and I will work with and support you to protect that legacy now and for the future. Betray our values and shame our principles however, and you will have no part in that future.”

Now wouldn’t THAT be something to hear.

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