Introducing a whole-of-system 7 day health service can have immense benefits for public and private hospitals, social care and support services, as well as other healthcare organisations. If implemented thoroughly it can improve patient care, safety, and general organisational outcomes. We have spoken to Brendan Murray, Special Counsel at Minter Ellison about key legal and administrative considerations for healthcare organisations that are considering moving to a 7 day health service.
IIR Healthcare: Developing and implementing a 7 day health service is a big administrative and cultural change for an organisation. From a legal perspective, what are the most crucial hurdles the healthcare sector needs to overcome in order to manage the transition successfully?
Brendan Murray: The most crucial hurdle from a legal perspective is that employers must ensure that, before they change regular rosters or ordinary hours of work, they meet the requirements for consultation that now exist in legislation, as well as in applicable workplace agreements. There are other hurdles that may emerge, such as the need to vary contracts of employment, and they also require consultation and engagement with employees. Ultimately, successful management of change relies on effective communication.
IIR Healthcare: Are there any other sectors the healthcare industry could learn from when it comes to managing the transition process for example the deregulation of trading hours in retail?
Brendan Murray: The movement to deregulate trading hours in service sectors in Australia has been in progress for some decades. There are lessons in effectively managing change. However, in my view, these lessons are less about how an industry sector may manage the introduction of change and more about how individual employers manage it.
IIR Healthcare: If you could give one piece of advice to healthcare organisations on what crucial step to take before it starts implementing a 7 day health service what would it be?
Brendan Murray: Talk to employees. Implementing change without consultation is a recipe for low morale, disputes, complaints and claims against employers, potential for legal action and cost, both in time and money.
IIR Healthcare: You will be speaking at the inaugural Developing a 7 Day Health Service conference, addressing issues evolving around workplace change and employment law. What can conference attendees expect from your presentation?
Brendan Murray: At the conclusion of the presentation, those attending should have an understanding of the obligations regarding the introduction of change that are imposed by legislation, workplace agreements and contracts of employment. As well as the obligations, they will also know the limits of the obligation. In other words, what the law considers is required for consultation, and what is not required. They will get an insight as to what may happen when things go wrong, and how to avoid things going wrong.