St John’s outgoing chief executive quits due to leave

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St John’s outgoing chief executive quits due to leave

The outgoing head of the state's ambulance service is a victim of the government using the organisation as a scapegoat St John WA chief executive Michelle Fyfe announced last night she would be leaving her position on July 12, three months before her contract was due to be completed, according to WA's opposition.

It follows months of intense scrutiny and pressure on the service, which has had to deal with COVID-induced staff shortages and record ambulance ramping.

After the death of an elderly woman who waited more than two hours for an ambulance, tensions had emerged between the WA government and the service. After the death, firefighters, police and other officials were sent to help the organisation cope with COVID furlough and surging demand.

Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson criticized St John's handling of those pressures, saying St John should have activated critical worker protocols.

The Premier Mark McGowan said at the time that they had the COVID plan available, but they didn't request the assistance. St John took blame for the failures of the government, says opposition.

The government had to show a clear commitment to the organisation's new leader after using St John as a scapegoat for their own failings. St John has been operating with a hand tied behind their back because of the issues across the hospital system, according to the Opposition health spokesperson, Libby Mettam.

It's time for the McGowan government to take responsibility for capacity issues across our hospital system and make a clear commitment to address this issue as a matter of urgency. The government promised to give $252 million to address some of the pressures on the ambulance service, including freeing up hospital beds used by long-stay patients.

At the time, Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson tempered expectations of what that money would achieve.

She said that we don't expect great improvement in the coming months, because we're still in very high case load numbers of COVID and we're coming into our winter season, which traditionally sees higher numbers of ramping.

Other people need to take responsibility: unions need to be accountable for themselves.

The resignation of Ms Fyfe in a statement last night, St John WA chair Shayne Leslie said now was the right time for new leadership, fresh eyes and renewed energy to take the organisation forward. The announcement came as a surprise to Fiona Scalon, the national ambulance coordinator for the United Workers Union.

She said that the issues facing the organisation, including incredibly low morale, were not the fault of Ms Fyfe alone.

When you take on the roles of CEO of a big organisation like St John, the buck stops with you, said Ms Scalon, who spoke to ABC Radio Perth.

There is a whole layer of a board and the rest of the executives of St John that have to take some responsibility for things getting to the point that they have. She said that while ambulance services across the country were under pressure, St John did not respond as well as others did.

There are processes across the country where degree qualified medical staff have been on-board in order to make sure the community has a response, better than in the west, she said.

Ms Scalon said Ms Fyfe's departure could be a chance for the government to take more control of the situation, suggesting that the service could be brought back within the public sector.

The government has previously rejected those suggestions, saying it would remain in private hands until the next state election.

The government is in the process of negotiating a new contract with St John Ambulance, which is due to expire tomorrow.

David Russell-Weisz, the Health Department Director-General, told Parliament last week that a very short term extension had been agreed to allow discussions to continue.