State's food snacked on, probe finds
By Liam Walsh
A HUNT for missing sandwiches in which Queensland Health investigators flew hundreds of kilometres, concluded a staff member had, "on the balance of probabilities", eaten the food.
The cost to taxpayers of flying, accommodating and feeding the two external investigators to reach this conclusion was about $1500, according to documents obtained via Freedom of Information laws.
The finding was made six months after the initial allegation surrounding a nursing facility in Charleville.
The Australian Workers Union has criticised the resources used as a waste at a time when patients faced long waiting lists for medical treatment.
The argy-bargy has continued, with the AWU also rejecting Queensland Health claims that the worker, who has denied the allegation, had been counselled.
An AWU spokesman said an official letter sent to the staffer said "no further action" was required "following extensive and comprehensive considerations of the investigation report".
Queensland Health has defended the resources used as appropriate.
Southern zone manager Karen Roach also said obtaining outside investigators, in this case from Brisbane and the Fraser Coast, was fair and routine.
"While an allegation's been made it's inappropriate for the local manager to investigate," she said. "The people who are mostly skilled in this area (investigations) would actually be in Charleville itself, which makes it difficult to draw on people from the same district."
But Queensland Health was discussing ways of streamlining investigations to see if matters could be dealt with locally, she said.
The investigators had pursued an accusation which stretched back to a Saturday afternoon on August 23 last year, when two sandwiches went missing from a nursing facility attached to Charleville Hospital, resulting in a shortage for residents.
Two days later a worker wrote: "If staff stopped eating the sandwiches there would be enough for residents."
Between August 25 and October 31, correspondence flowed until a manager wrote to an employment relations officer at Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital about "serious complaints" against a staffer.
The initial terms of reference were only into the missing sandwiches, with the option of expanding investigations if further allegations were raised.
The investigators reported that two staffers had been accused of eating residents' food and witnesses may have been intimidated.
One "witness" had said they saw the staffer chewing "within seconds" of taking the sandwiches.
"It is the findings of the investigators that on the balance of probabilities (name blanked out) consumed sandwiches," the investigators wrote.
Ms Roach said Queensland Health believed the incident would not occur again because the worker had been counselled in his role at the facility.