SAHLN Mental Health (MH) - SALHN Response Regarding Vacancy Strategy

14 September 2018

Further to the Public Service Association (PSA) Information Update on 4 September 2018, the PSA wrote to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SALHN expressing serious concern at both the appalling email congratulating SALHN MH Executives and Managers for achieving $426,000 in savings by not filling roles and the fact that this savings strategy exists.

The PSA requested the CEO’s urgent commitment that a retraction would be sent to all SALHN MH staff regarding the “celebration” of this strategy. The PSA further requested processes for determining backfill be urgently reviewed within the seven days following the PSA’s letter, with savings not to be a reason for not filling roles. The letter also reiterated that the PSA’s position remains that all roles which will be vacant - temporary or permanent - should be filled no matter what the reason for the vacancy is.

The letter to the SALHN CEO can be found here.

SALHN has replied to the PSA’s letter, continuing to advise that the email was not authorised by SALHN and has been addressed with the author and that “SALHN has and will continue to backfill clinical positions and manage vacancies in accordance with consumer care and service delivery needs...”, with work continuing on “...the establishment of principles for the backfilling of positions within Community Mental Health.” The letter of response can be found here.

The SALHN response raises a number of concerns:

  • The CEO has not committed to a retraction being forwarded to all SALHN MH staff as requested by the PSA regarding the “celebration” of these savings;
  • Despite the assertions that the email was not authorised, the CEO failed to address the PSA and members’ concern that if this has been a strategy for the whole of the last financial year (and perhaps prior), then SALHN must have supported it.
  • While the CEO has mentioned that backfill principles are being established the CEO has not committed to the PSA’s request that these are completed urgently. Other than a Workload Escalation Pathway flowchart referred to in the CEO’s response, there has been no evidence provided to the PSA of any other draft documents specifically about backfill principles.
  • The letter from the PSA pertained to all of SALHN MH, yet the CEO’s response regarding backfill principles only refers to Community Mental Health.
  • The CEO’s response refers to backfill of “clinical positions” only which appears to indicate that “non-clinical” roles will not be included. This fails to recognise the critical role played by administrative staff, nor does it recognise the “snowball effect” if management/professional lead positions are not backfilled with continuing additional duties filtering down to all levels.

The PSA is concerned with the lack of attention given by the CEO to the requests of the PSA on behalf of members; the lack of response to this being an inappropriate strategy to be used for backfill; and the lack of inclusion in the response of all teams in SALHN MH and all disciplines/workforce members in relation to backfill processes.

The PSA asks that members review this correspondence and forward feedback to PSA by email to by Friday 21 September 2018. The PSA will then provide any feedback received to the CEO and SALHN MH in a collated and non-identifying manner.