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Fong faces new crisis amid corruption claims
Fong faces new crisis amid corruption claims

Neale Fong must wonder if controversy targets him like a heat- seeking missile.

Five years after his high-profile downfall as WA's director-general of health, Dr Fong is at the centre of a new crisis.

As the recently appointed managing director of Peel Health Campus, he is dealing with allegations raised in State Parliament about "corruption" at the Mandurah hospital.

There's also a former executive who has gone public with claims based on confidential information the hospital alleges she stole.

If that's not enough, the Labor Party is pursuing the hospital public relations man Tony Solin, who recently quit and is running as the Liberal Party's Mandurah candidate at the next State election.

"All we are after is a contract extension and all this mud is being thrown," Dr Fong said.

"It's a good hospital. Clinically they perform really well."

But included in a bundle of documents used by Labor to prosecute its arguments in Parliament over the past few weeks is an internal hospital email which highlights the challenging situation Dr Fong now finds himself in.

It was written by Jon Fogarty - the recently retired executive chairman and biggest shareholder of the private company that runs the Peel campus, Health Solutions WA.

A former Swan Districts football champion, Mr Fogarty played a role in getting Dr Fong on to the hospital's board and installing him as managing director in September.

As part of a critique of one hospital executive, Mr Fogarty wrote about a meeting he once had with Dr Fong and another senior health identity.

"I had one meeting with (name deleted) and Neale Fong a few years back and knew immediately both would be soon fired or replaced," Mr Fogarty wrote in a February email. "Neither was prepared, took notes or had a specific agenda other than to talk BS and waste time. At the time both losers who both lost."

In the next breath, Mr Fogarty said Dr Fong was now involved with Peel because the company needed him. "A sad reflection on what's happened to us in recent years," he wrote.

Dr Fong has the job of ensuring the region's health service runs smoothly, wins a contract extension and gets approval for a major expansion.

He said the February email, which he was aware of, did not bother him. One damaging claim by former chief operating officer Ashton Foley was that $200 payments were being made to doctors to encourage the admission of patients, which meant more money from the Government.

Dr Fong said the issue was misrepresented. "It was an additional payment to the emergency department doctors for additional work - looking after the patients once they were admitted," he said.

Nonetheless, $1.4 million was returned to the Government after an audit of patient admissions, but Dr Fong insists the hospital "blew the whistle on itself".

Another of Mr Fogarty's emails makes clear how difficult the job of repairing the hospital's public image will be and why he hired Mr Solin - his old mate and footy teammate - on $200,000 a year.

"The press actually has no respect for Peel management - nil," Mr Fogarty wrote in May. "He (Mr Solin) knows the large negatives in the community are well entrenched and will require a lot of work to get any traction."

The Opposition has argued in Parliament that Mr Solin's hiring was no coincidence and that before it happened a $250,000 community fund was established by HSWA.

"As soon as he declared his intentions about Liberal preselection, I said if that's the case he's not to be involved with the community health fund," Dr Fong said.

Dr Fong, employed on $600,000 in 2004 by the previous Labor government, is acutely aware of the politics of health and said Mr Solin's candidacy would not help the hospital's cause.