By Rebecca Wright
Health Minister Tony Ryall has been forced to admit he has been making secret visits to emergency wards, gathering intelligence.
In breach of the usual ministerial protocol, Mr Ryall has not warned staff he’s on the way, nor has he introduced himself when he has arrived.
“If I’m in a city or a town and I’ve got a spare five or 10 minutes, sometimes I drop by the emergency department to sit quietly and see what’s going on for a few minutes,” Mr Ryall says.
“Maybe talk to some patients, see what’s going on and how long they’ve been waiting. It helps me to keep in touch.”
Mr Ryall only admitted the practice after an Official Information Act request from the newsroom.
“I’ve been to several [emergency departments] around the country,” he says.
“I don’t want to go around listing them, or they may think I may not come again.”
It may sound like a threat, but Mr Ryall says his feedback has been mostly positive.
“Sometimes you find people who feel they might have been waiting a little bit longer,” he says.
“But what we do know is our emergency departments are getting faster.”
Emergency departments contacted by 3 News didn’t know about Mr Ryall’s visits and had varying views on the practice.
One head of emergency welcomed the undercover Minister, but others thought it was “perplexing”, “insulting and undermining” as well as “creepy and weird”.
Some have questioned his method, labelling it an “unscientific way to gain an impression of an emergency department”.
“Conditions change by the hour, there are protocols for visiting Ministers.”
This is a question also being asked by the opposition.
“I’ve never known a Minister of Health not to abide by protocols working with the clinicians and the management of a hospital,” says Labour’s Associate Health Minister Annette King.
"There is no need for a Minister to sneak in and spy on staff."
Mr Ryall appears undeterred.
source: newshub archive