Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It Seems NEHTA Is Having Some Employee Relationship Issues And Is Really Becoming Self Destructive and Damaging to At Least Some Employees.


In the last few weeks I have been hearing what is building to a crescendo of rumblings and concerns about the way NEHTA is being managed.
Before listing what I am hearing I have to make the point that virtually all those who have been in touch are, for one reason or another, no longer with the organisation.  In my opinion this gives veracity to their comments as they really have no reason to be untruthful - given that their relationship with the organisation has been severed. I also think that to have multiple former employees actively seeking out ways of drawing attention to perceived or actual wrongs (including by contacting me)  - certainly indicates a considerable depth of feeling, annoyance and frustration.
I have listed some of the major concerns that I have heard below, and although I cannot confirm the factual accuracy of any of the key concerns, I have heard all of the below sentiments from multiple sources. 
Some consistently raised concerns  include:
1. That there is a culture of bullying among some layers of management that has been the cause of a significant number of resignations and departures. I have also been told that there are rumours of consultant help being sought - as either a real effort to fix things or maybe just to ‘whitewash’.
2. That there have been at least some Workcover investigations of what is happening at NEHTA.
3. That there have been instances where the Human Resource function may have been less than even handed in mediating issues that have arisen between staff and management.
4. That within NEHTA there is a sense of entitlement of managers which is leading to some rather exceptionally extravagant behaviour - expensive restaurant usage, very expensive mineral water use etc .
5. That the attitude of some NEHTA staff to various volunteer contributors to the e-Health program has been less than reasonable.
6. That NEHTA’s status as neither a Government or Private entity has led to a very concerning lack of accountability for public funds which many suggest is being wasted at an alarming rate.
7. That’s, as an aside I am told that the HR department re-christened itself "People Culture and Change", an acronym which the employees mockingly call the "Praetorian Council of Control".
That I am hearing these stories from multiple sources tends to suggest, to me at least, that we have a situation where the smoke is suggesting there is a fire somewhere that needs to be dealt with.
Given what we all need NEHTA to be and to deliver this all seems a bit sad.
For anyone who feels that they need some external support here are the relevant contact numbers:
Workcover NSW Hotline 13 10 50.
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has a Workplace Bullying Hotline 1800 177 717.
Those who have been not treated as they might wish should at least explore making contact with the services above.
Of course anonymous comments are always welcome to allow people to share their problems.
I realise some will say this is part of David’s general anti-NEHTA propaganda but nothing I cite here has less than a really trustworthy source and I really feel there are some people who are feeling pretty disempowered and voiceless in all this who would like the issues aired.
I have compared stories from the various sources and what I am reporting seems to stack up. Given this, although my opinion is set, I leave my readers to decide what to take away from this. My feeling is that major change is really needed with all this if Australian e-Health is to actually progress.
David.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent post David. This is serious stuff and should shame the leadership.

Maybe they'll be called to account at some point?

Anonymous said...

Management at nehta is shameless, whether it's failing to address bullying or wasting taxpayer funds.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget the shamelessness of the members of the Board, those past and present Directors over time. They have a duty of care here to the staff, and the court’s rulings of late (e.g. Centro), will not allow the board to shirk their duty of care obligations according to the Corporations Act, whether that’s workplace bullying and a failure to address the problem, or misappropriation of tax payers’ funds.

And with the volume of funds passing through NEHTA’s coffers over time, the Board better make sure every cent is tracked and accounted for, lest the Auditor General comes a knocking, and the auditors are holding a "get out of jail card free", courtesy of the courts!

Anonymous said...

Bullying tends to occur when inadequate insecure people experience a challenge to their egos and / or where their job roles are challenged and under threat. They tend to react by finding one or more individuals subservient to them that they can blame. They usually bully, intimidate, abuse and berate emotionally and sometimes physically to satisfy their ego drive for superiority and to prove that the problems lie elsewhere. If senior management is conducting themselves in this way the employees are helpless victims with only three options open to them (1) continue to put up with the bullying, (2) leave the organisation (3) report the circumstances, individually or collectively, to an external authority which is delegated with the responsibility to act.

Anonymous said...

management at NEHTA have their own agenda - anyone who disagrees with that has to be done away with.

Anonymous said...

"Culture eats strategy for breakfast" (attributed to Drucker). If reports of bullying are true, even in part, then we have the answer to the question on everyone's lips: "what's wrong with NeHTA?" No (professional) culture = no strategy.

Anonymous said...

From a volunteer funding perspective , DoHA need to take a good look at themselves to let the Standards Australia work fall behind given the tight schedule for PCEHR implementers. I can verify that the funding halt for S.A., HL7 and IHTSDO volunteers has put Minister Roxon's plans for a 2012 go-live in the bin.

Lagrimas de Luna said...

David,
Nehta staff have no avenue of redress. I have personal knowledge of four instances where reports against bullies were turned against the accusers. PCC demonstrates repeatedly that it defends the company, not the staff. PCC staff intimidate and threaten, never committing their threats to email.

Nevertheless, many staff from both the NSW and QLD offices have trails as evidence of how they were bullied, and I hope these are revealed under subpoena if necessary.

Often the victimisation takes the form of marginalising people who rock the boat. Middle managers are cowardly bureaucrats who prefer to avoid controversy, and hence they never challenge people who spread malicious rumours about their colleagues, or who scream and swear at somebody in front of witnesses. In one notable case this might simply be because the manager concerned is so out of his depth that he gains nothing by being a leader, but everything by hitching his wagon to more powerful bureaucrats to know how to play the game.

Fear of losing one's livelihood and of career damage prevents victims from speaking out. This silence creates a vacuum, which is filled by rumours and innuendo. The resulting Salem Witch Trials environment turns people against each other. It was sickening to witness how people snapped, pointed, spat and squirmed whenever a witch hunt was launched to discover the identity of a blog poster. The innocent turn on each other, brandishing pitchforks and matches lest there be any doubt about their loyalty.

Nehta managers, lawyers and assorted Grumpkins and Snarks: take your best shot.
Those who have been kicked are ready to bite, and we have the evidence to burn you all.

Anonymous said...

The inspector at Workcover NSW who is investigating Nehta is Barry Sutcliffe.
Any staff - past or present - who have been bullied or abused are encouraged to contact him.

All conversations are completely confidential. Staff should also be assured that section 23 of the NSW Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 prohibits the dismissal or victimisation of an employee for making a complaint to Workcover NSW.

The law is on your side.

The Workcover Hotline number for NSW is 131050.

Anonymous said...

Maybe somebody should look closely into the removal of the COO a couple of years back...

Anonymous said...

Its quite clear why no work is ever done at Nehta!! Trouble is the Ministers approach appears even worse. Can someone with a brain please step in and put an end to this shameless waste of taxpayers money please.

Anonymous said...

That's pretty unfair. There are highly skilled and competent people hanging in there and doing their best in what sounds like a very difficult work environment.

They deserve kudos for continuing to try and produce a positive outcome for eHealth, not condemnation because of their sucky managers.

Lagrimas de Luna said...

No, that's not a fair accusation. There are many hardworking people at Nehta who are doing a quality job. What is in dispute is whether their energy is being appropriately directed. Try as they might, insiders have been unable to dissuade management from the strategy chosen for projects like NASH. The NASH project, just by the way, has been the trigger for more arguments, bullying, disciplinary action and denial than all the other projects put together.
Yes, that's right Nehtians: the project you fondly refer to as Not A Snowball's Hope.

Anonymous said...

I find it incredible that an organisation that promotes itself as being about improving the health of Australians is apparently damaging the health of some Australians by not protecting them from bullying and abuse. Hypocrisy, I think it's called.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for airing this issue David, and outlining the course of action for those at the receiving end in NEHTA. The 'churn' of employees leaving is quite phenomenal and until you experience it yourself, you feel lost regarding what action to take. Thank you

Anonymous said...

I know this is an old thread David, but thought it relevant that there are a few sackings, resignations and "forced" leavings in the offing at NEHTA soon.....looks like the culture and environment didnt improve after this public expose....sad really as its ordinary workers that seem to suffer

Anonymous said...

One of the real challenges facing NEHTA (and has been for much of its time that does not get discussed), is that the leadership team lack many of the real skills and experience to tackle the complexities of the job. Many of those with the required skills have either left or been pushed to make way for others. There are huge pieces of the e-Health puzzle that for the exec in NEHTA are simply a fog bank. Whilst there are many highly skilled & motivated people, they are let down by the leadership team. Add to that some very destructive self-serving middle management and you have a mess that distrcts from some good work that does get done.

Anonymous said...

As a former employee of NEHTA I can personally support the claims being made that there is both a culture of bullying there, and that neither NEHTA HR or management were part of the solution.

I was the subject of bullying and harassment whilst working at NEHTA.
From the moment I raised a formal grievance my departure was a foregone conclusion. I was left with no choice, or more accurately, no incentive to remain.

Nothing improved as a consequence of my grievance being heard; this despite acknowledgement from HR that the issues I raised were accurate and valid. However, instead of changing management or management practice, everything just got more difficult. The organisations response was an initial strategy of verballing, failing that it became ticking procedural boxes, followed by containment and increasing isolation.

I agree with the analysis of others commenting here, that NEHTA management is in far too many instances incompetent. Ipso facto, blame and responsibility for poor outcomes is displaced as a matter of course onto others. This is the regime that the
incumbent CEO presides over and despite much blood letting at the start of his tenure, things have gone from bad to worse. So where does the buck stop ?

The CEO's view that morale and turnover rates have parity with comparable private sector organisations is hysterical . NEHTA has little of the discipline of the private sector and none of the benefits of the public sector.

For me personally, it was a shocking experience. One that I'm deeply relieved is receding, albeit slowly, into the past.

Anonymous said...

I have experienced very similar bullying treatment in one of the local sites implementing the trial of eHealth. I was being mistreated by management and raising the issue only led to further mistreatment and abuse. I was working 60 hour weeks and constantly being accused of being lazy, regularly being sworn at and yelled at in meetings and then ironically when I raised it with my supervisor I was falsely accused of harassing others and dismissed. I was not presented with any proof of this harassment and the HR manager was bypassed by a director who was very blunt in saying that he could sack me for no reason because I was in a probationary period. There is no legal right to claim unfair dismissal in such circumstances.

I find it hard to imagine that this particular organisation will be able to fill the role I was undertaking and get done what needs to be done in the current time frame. Additionally several other sites were depending on this site to do its part in a co-operative scheme where different (and commercially independent) sites were given different roles in the local roll-out. Thus I believe there may be significant problems at several local sites because of this situation at one site.

I actually think the idea of eHealth is great, but the pressure on employees to do the humanly impossible is immense, leading to significant technical and workplace issues. Bosses are bullying workers because they are either power hungry or because they themselves are under pressure to implement the system in a completely unrealistic time frame.

Additionally, at every turn there have been issues with software and standards. One instance is encryption software - A 2-3 year old version of the encryption "middleware" was bought which has significant compatibility problems with 64-bit Windows and Mac OS X and several recent browsers. This was significant in my view because many vendors are now selling computer systems exclusively with 64-bit Windows and Mac OS X is now fully 64-bit too, meaning many new computers will face compatibility issues out of the box. These issues can be worked around in most cases but not without very specific knowledge, only by bypassing official documentation, and in ways that only 1st and 2nd level support in Canberra have no idea about. I spent two weeks asking very specific technical questions of level 1 & 2 support and trying to get in touch with 3rd level support before I finally spoke to someone who understood what I was asking. I was then told by local management that I had wasted my time on something that was unimportant, when in fact my view was that connecting to the system in its most basic form was one of the most crucial steps of eHealth. Finally I was told that the encryption system chosen was a backup plan to another system that was pursued initially and only recently rejected by Canberra (NeHTA?? DOHA??), which in my view explained a lot.

Anonymous said...

Continued from last comment...

Furthermore, eHealth implementation was severely hampered by a need to explain parts of the system to health professionals that the local sites had no access to by Medicare, that were not yet implemented, or where things were in such a state of flux that it was either not permissible to talk about them or just downright confusing and frustrating for everyone. This level of stupidity even came down to whether the term PCEHR was allowed to be used by the trial sites, which had instead started exclusively using the term "shared health summary" as an interim solution.

It turned out that the debacle in January over standards involved *five* different versions of standards, or so I was told by management. Where they differed it was only in minor ways, however the standards had some 50,000 elements and these minor differences were not few. Apparently between releasing the original standards in early 2011 and the revised standards in late 2011 the versioning system had not been used (something like "track changes" in Word but relating to code). Additionally some of these errors arose in relation to out-sourcing to India, but I think there were other sources of error like the use of "Tiger Teams" to fast-track development of standards. I believe these things can be fixed, but the software vendors had put a lot of time into writing software that it turns out corresponded to 5 different standards, and even if fixing the standards is now done it will take the software vendors time to catch up, and that is also contingent on them having the right financial incentives.

To conclude, I actually believe that there is *great merit* in many of the ideas and likely clinical outcomes behind the eHealth system, and I also believe it is the way things are going globally. I think the system can be of real benefit to Australia and to health consumers. I believe, however, that the short time frame, the "toxic workplace" or bullying problems at NeHTA and local sites, the egos of some key managers and a general lack of vision have hampered what given a decent crack could have been a great system promoting excellent health outcomes.

Anonymous said...

One more comment to clarify my previous posts...

I don't believe the encryption problems mentioned above ever compromised the security of the eHealth system, only the ability to connect when the encryption middleware was 32-bit and used on a 64-bit operating system, or even on recent versions of some popular browsers (32 or 64-bit) like Firefox, which ironically when configured correctly was the best browser to use with the system. Workarounds were only necessary to get these systems/browsers working at all, not to fix security issues.

Anonymous said...

My experience was similar to that of the other former NEHTA employees commenting on this site.

I raised a grievance against two people who were, quite simply, malicious bullies of the highest order. These two staff members had, at different times, poked fun my appearance, circulated false rumours about my relationships with other staff, and routinely excluded me and several other staff members they disliked from important meetings and events.

I raised a formal grievance with HR with the following results (or lack thereof): (a) no action whatsoever was taken against the perpetrators; and (b) I received a sound scolding from the HR Director for not being a 'team player'.

On top of this nothing has been done to minimise the number of snouts in NEHTA's very deep trough. A number of middle to upper level managers fly to Canberra and/or Brisbane at least once a week. This, in itself, is not surprising but the amount of expensive wine/meals consumed by these managers while away certainly is. It would be fascinating if a media outlet could get its hands on the credit card bills of a certain Integration Manager who shall remain nameless!

Anonymous said...

Replace NEHTA with ACECQA and this blog would be just as accurate. ACECQA has had almost complete staff turn over rate in its first 12 months of operation in one business line and as already lost three of its executives. Both Senior Human Resources Manages left on bad terms, with the first one storming out of the office. Several bullying complaints have been lodged and the results of these were never made public although it is understood several payouts were made.

Dr David More MB PhD FACHI said...

Here is a link....

http://www.acecqa.gov.au/

Sounds awful....anyone else experienced any of this?

David.

Anonymous said...

Only at NeHTA, of which I hear they are relocating from their Brisbane offices, maybe they ran out space to sweep little annoyances, like staff getting in the way of self importance, under the carpet

Anonymous said...

Nehta moving? Where to? I have seen nothing to indicate this. Wish them well in the transition

Anonymous said...

",Nehta moving? Where to?"

Centerlink

Anonymous said...

Reading the related posts and comments on this blog, I can see scary similarities between NEHTA's first years and the past couple at ACECQA. Including, terrible treatment of staff by a core group of the executive team (those who weren't bullied out themselves for opposing the dictatorial regime). I was lucky enough to get out last year, mostly unscathed, but not without witnessing an uncomfortable number staff suffer terrible victimisation at the hands of this executive. From what I am told by those still under the thumb, the culture is still just as poisonous today. Most attribute this to the narcissistic micromanager in charge, and her underqualified and vindictive 2IC.

Adding to the failings of this executive team are a long list of ineffective business decisions that have, done little to achieve the organisation's strategic aims, seriously damaged the reputation of the organisation and its staff, alienated most key stakeholders and wasted pots of tax payers money.

Until I stumbled across this blog, I thought ACECQA was an incredible isolated case. Now I wonder how many other organisations are suffering under the same poor management and absent leadership.