Staff posed as fake patients for minister

The Victorian Health Minister is none too pleased with some staff at a regional healthcare centre. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw

Healthcare workers who posed as fake patients during a Health Minister’s visit so their clinic would look busier will have to do counselling.

Victorian Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said one of the posers arrived by ambulance as she delivered a report on the incident.

It happened at the Colac Area Health’s urgent care clinic on August 9 last year and “had the potential to impact patient care”.

Colac Health Area is reviewing the investigation evidence and will consider the next steps for a small group of staff.

Ten workers were enlisted to be fake patients. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Ms Thomas released Department of Health Victoria findings on Wednesday.

“It (the investigation) has confirmed that staff at Colac Area Health posed as patients during my visit on that day,” Ms Thomas said.

“These staff members were registered as patients in the urgent care centre registration system. Their registrations were later cancelled after I had left.”

Mary-Anne Thomas
The Health Minister was hoodwinked. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Luis Enrique Ascui

One fake patient was a staff member on a trolley, the minister said, and at the time she did not think anything untoward was happening at the facility.

“I’m very disappointed. I don’t need our health services to be staging fake patients to know that our health system is facing challenges,” she said.

Ms Thomas said the group was enlisted “by some management staff to help the urgent care centre appear busier than it actually was”.

One of the posers was on a trolley and another came by ambulance. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

It was a matter for Colac Area Health to decide what happened to the involved staff, Ms Thomas said.

Colac Area Health acting chief executive Steve Moylan said the service was sorry.

“We are sorry for what occurred in the Urgent Care Centre, it is highly regrettable and we’ve accepted all recommendations from the independent investigation,” he said.

“Whilst the investigation found there was no impact to patient care, we know the incident posed a potential risk and that’s something we will ensure doesn’t happen again.”

Colac Area Health would learn from the incident and act on recommendations to strengthen its internal culture and also consider further action, Mr Moylan said.

In a statement, the Department of Health said individual action had not been recommended by the investigators for those who posed as patients.

“However, all staff will be counselled on the seriousness of the matter and reminded of how they can speak up and of their responsibilities under their workplace agreements and the VPS (Victorian Public Sector) code of conduct,” the department statement reads.

Ambulance Victoria is also investigating.