As the Government looks to kickstart one of the most important capital projects in the island's history for a third time, it is facing a major hurdle — "fed up" and "disenfranchised" health staff are not engaged anymore... Is there anything that can be done to win them back?
Express explores the uphill battle being faced by the 'New Healthcare Facilities' project team...
Last week, Infrastructure Minister Tom Binet revealed that only 59 healthcare employees – which makes up just 2% of nearly 2,500 staff members – attended a series of 19 drop-in workshops held earlier this month to gather feedback on the new Health Care Facilities Plan.
Neither ministers nor senior officers attended any workshops.
At a public hearing of the Future Hospital Review Panel on Friday afternoon, Health Minister Deputy Karen Wilson said she would have wished for the workshops "to be much more attended and I don't think it is representative".
"We need to review why that is the case and how we can start to build the engagement with staff again," she added.
She explained that staff were "tired" and "concerned" that time was being taken up to contribute advice a second time and "we have to find a different way to be able to engage them".
Pictured: Deputy Karen Wilson said she thought staff were "tired" and the government needed to "step up" communications in future.
Part of the sessions involved seeking feedback on how staff wished to be consulted in future.
Deputy Wilson concluded that "we need to step up communications to make sure that we can codify [feedback] and build it into the system of consultation and engagement we have set up already. We need to have a look at what we can do to facilitate as much engagement as possible."
At the panel hearing, Jessica Hardwick, Acting Project Director for the ongoing Hospital, said "we will learn from the feedback and try to do it in a different way."
Videos of the new multi-site plans have now been uploaded to the staff intranet, where they are accessible. The proposal replaces the previous single-site Our Hospital project, with possible locations at Overdale, Kensington Place, the Health and Wellbeing Centre at Les Quennevais and Rosewood House and Clinique Pinel in St Saviour.
Pictured: Deputy Tom Binet said there is still a "very healthy engagement process" despite only 59 attendees of the workshops.
In this week's Assembly, Deputy Binet said that consultation advice gathered for the single-site plan was "not ignored" and "comprehensive engagement" at previous consultations might explain the lower turnout this time.
He believes there remains a "very healthy engagement process".
However, Deputy Lyndon Farnham, who headed up the now-scrapped Our Hospital project during the last Government, has said that the new government's decision to scrap the single-site plans has left healthcare workers feeling "apathetic" and "disenfranchised."
"They don't have the appetite to go through it all again," he said.
Deputy Farnham added: "The government can't possibly take guidance from a small number like that, and if we want to get the majority of the healthcare professionals engaged again, the government needs to think seriously about going back to the previous single-site plans."
"The staff have lost confidence in the project, and they are keen to get on with the important work in the right conditions. It's for the new government to win back the confidence of the healthcare staff, which will be an uphill struggle."
Pictured: Deputy Lyndon Farnham, who headed the scrapped Our Hospital project.
Deputy Farnham further questioned how the government goes about seeking engagement.
He said: "With the previous consultations, there were a lot of structured talks, and it was clinically directed by senior medical staff. But drop-in workshops are always hit and miss. There are lots of resources put in to set them up and no guarantee of people showing up. That won't help with the apathy."
A healthcare worker who wished to remain anonymous told Express that she had no intention of attending workshops, because no notice was taken of staff input at previous workshops.
None of her colleagues went either, and she said: "It's irrelevant where the various establishments of the new hospital are situated in the big scheme of things. It's the culture that has to change."
"The walls will have to grow ears," she added.
Pictured: An extract of the communication sent to HCS staff encouraging them to attend drop-in sessions.
It's not the first time that engagement with health staff has been raised as an issue.
In January, a report on Deployment of Staff Resources in Health and Community Services by Comptroller and Auditor General, Lynn Pamment, also made recommendations including the need for "improved staff engagement".
A further series of engagement with healthcare workers, community stakeholders and the public are due to take place in April 2023, as feasibility plans for healthcare delivery are developed.
Perhaps improving staff relations will be a job for the spate of people being recruited to help with the 'New Healthcare Facilities Project' team.
A blog published by government last week read: "Job adverts are already published for Communication and Engagement and Project Support roles. We will keep you updated on other opportunities in the coming weeks.
"We hope that colleagues and Islanders will be interested joining us in delivering excellent new facilities to support healthcare services for the future."
They'll certainly have their work cut out.
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