Queensland Health

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Queensland Health
Department overview
Formed1859 (1859)[1]
JurisdictionQueensland Government
Headquarters33 Charlotte Street, Brisbane[2]
EmployeesIncrease 90,513 (2018–19)[3]
Annual budgetIncrease A$19.23 billion (2019–20)[4]
Minister responsible
Department executives
Child agencies

Queensland Health is a ministerial department of the Queensland Government responsible for operating the state's public health system and is one of the oldest government departments.[1] The minister for health and ambulance services has overall responsibility for the department, while the director-general and chief health officer manage day-to-day operational and clinical activities. Queensland Health includes the department proper, 16 local Hospital and Health Services throughout Queensland, and a range of related foundations and authorities.[8] The department employs over 90,000 staff and has an annual operating budget of A$19.23 billion in 2019–20.[3][4]

On 1 January 1946, Queensland became the first state in Australia to introduce free universal public hospital treatment, a policy later adopted by other jurisdictions.[9] Created in 1975, Medicare gives Australian citizens and permanent residents access to low or no cost health services, including doctors, medications (through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme), mental health practitioners, in both the public and private health systems.[10][11] Australia has reciprocal health care agreements with 11 other nations, covering the cost of medically necessary care when Australians visit certain countries and visitors from these countries visit Australia.[12]


2005 restructure[edit]

Queensland Health was restructured toward the end of 2005 from 38 "health districts" to 20. There were a number consolidations particularly in the urban areas with the formation of the "Northside" and "Southside" Districts. Northside District included three major hospital facilities including The Prince Charles Hospital, Redcliffe and Caboolture Hospitals while Southside brought the Logan, Redlands, Beaudesert and Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Hospitals together. Due to their size and areas they covered, the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital (RBWH) on the Northside, and the Princess Alexandra Hospital or regional centre on the Southside remained independent entities or Districts in their own right.

Toowoomba Hospital, 2008

From September 2008 the 20 health service districts were further reduced to 15. According to a Queensland Health media release, nine districts remain unchanged. They are: Central Queensland, Townsville, Mackay, Cairns, Torres Strait, Cape York, Mount Isa, Central West and South West Districts. Six new districts were created. They are:

  • Darling Downs-West Moreton incorporating the former Toowoomba and Darling Downs and West Moreton South Burnett districts.
  • Sunshine Coast-Wide Bay incorporating the Sunshine Coast – Cooloola, Wide Bay and Fraser Coast health service districts.
  • Metro South incorporates the Southside Health Service District and Princess Alexandra Hospital.
  • Metro North incorporates the Northside Health Service District and Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital.
  • Children's Health Services, will oversee the implementation of a Statewide paediatric service.

Health Quality and Complaints Commission[edit]

In response to the Forster Review of Queensland Health Systems an independent Health Quality and Complaints Commission was established on 1 July 2006 to allow patients to lodge complaints about health matters.[13]

The (full-time) Commissioner is Professor Michael Ward, a former Professor of Medicine at the University of Queensland. There are also a number of part-time Assistant Commissioners.

The Health Quality and Complaints Commission also has a role in the development and implementation of quality, safety and clinical practice standards throughout Queensland's public and private services and monitor best practice clinical governance and patient safety.

It was subject to review by an all-party Parliamentary Committee after its first full year of operation.

The HQCC has since been replaced by the Office of the Health Ombudsman.

Proposed abolishment[edit]

Former Premier Anna Bligh announced on 12 December 2011 that the department would be dismantled. The decision was attributed to an "unacceptable culture", the theft of $16 million from the department and problems with the payroll system which has cost hundreds of millions of dollars.[14] The department was due to cease operations on 1 July 2012.[14]

In January 2012, more details of the reform plan were announced, with an emphasis on health care management to be done locally.[15] Bligh described the changes as the biggest decentralisation of the public sector in the state's history.[16] In March 2012, the ALP lost power in Queensland and the proposed abolition of Queensland Health did not eventuate.

2012 restructure[edit]

Following Queensland's agreement to participate in National Health Care Reform in 2011, an Australian Health Care Agreement was signed that required the creation of local hospital networks that would be directly funded by the Commonwealth.[17][18] In May 2012 legislation was proposed by Lawrence Springborg to formalise the conversion of the health districts created in the 2005 restructure to independent local Hospital and Health Services (HHSs).[19] Under the new arrangements the HHSs each have their own board to manage and oversee the operations of the HHS.[20] The boards are accountable to the minister for health, and a "system manager" [21] was established to provide oversight and support to each of the services. These changes became effective on 1 July 2012.


Queensland Health consists of the Department of Health and 16 Health and Hospital Services (HHSs).[22]

Health and Hospital Services[edit]

The Health and Hospital Services are independent statutory bodies which are responsible for delivering public health services in their areas. Each HHS is governed by a Hospital and Health Board and managed by a Health Service Chief Executive.[23] There are 16 HHSs:[22]


Jayant Patel scandal[edit]

Queensland Health and the Bundaberg Base Hospital were involved in a scandal surrounding the employment of surgeon Jayant Patel. The Queensland Medical Board approved his registration and he was then quickly promoted to Director of Surgery even though he lacked specific qualifications.[24]

In March 2005, Rob Messenger raised concerns with Patel's medical practices in the Queensland Parliament[25] after he was contacted by senior hospital nurse Toni Hoffman. Hoffman received the Order of Australia medal and 2006 Australian of the Year Local Hero Award for her role as a whistleblower.

An inquiry into the matter known as the Morris Inquiry was started but was terminated on the grounds of perceived bias.[24] A second inquiry known as the Davies Inquiry found that the Queensland Health district manager and the hospital's Director of Medical Services had mostly ignored more than 20 complaints regarding Patel.[24]


On 1 July 2010, Patel was sentenced to seven years' jail after he was found guilty of three charges of manslaughter and one count of grievous bodily harm.[25] Patel appealed his conviction and sentence to the Court of Appeal, his appeal was dismissed.

Patel then appealed the Court of Appeal's decision to the High Court of Australia, and was granted special leave to appeal. On 24 August 2012, the High Court unanimously allowed the appeal and quashed Patel's convictions on the ground that prejudicial evidence had likely influenced the jury.[26][27] The High Court granted Patel a new trial.

Retrial, acquittal, plea bargain

The following year, a retrial was held for one of the manslaughter charges, and Patel was acquitted by the jury.[28] The remaining manslaughter and grievous bodily harm charges were later dropped in exchange for Patel pleading guilty to two counts related to him dishonestly gaining registration and two counts related to dishonestly gaining employment in Queensland.[29] Patel was sentenced to a two-year suspended sentence for those fraud charges.[29]

Medical ban

On 15 May 2015, the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal banned Patel from ever practising medicine in Australia again.[30][31]

Payroll problems[edit]

In April 2010, it was revealed that many Queensland Health staff were experiencing incorrect payment of wages since the introduction of a new payroll system.[32] The WorkBrain/SAP was a new system which replaced the LATTICE system.[33] It went live in March 2010, without adequate testing and despite warnings from SAP and IBM.

The problem was not resolved by May, with 35,000 wage anomalies to be fixed, but some progress had been made.[34] The State was advised that it could sue IBM for damages totaling $88M.[35] On 23 November 2010, the Queensland government announced that a negotiated settlement with IBM will spend $209 million over three years to resolve payroll problems.[36]

The system is very labor-intensive and requires ten times the staff as other systems. It is estimated to cost $1.2B before 2018 when it is recommended to be replaced. According to the 2013 Commission of Inquiry, "the QH payroll system must take a place in the front rank of failures in public administration in this country".[35]

Payroll System Commission of Inquiry[edit]

The Queensland Health Payroll System Commission of Inquiry (QHPSCI) was established by order of the Governor in Council on 13 December 2012. The Honourable Richard Chesterman AO RFD QC commenced the Inquiry on 1 February 2013. In his remarks at the directions hearing, Commissioner Chesterman explained the purpose of the inquiry "is to determine why such large amounts of money have been lost to the public, whether anything might be recovered; and why such distress was inflicted on the Queensland Health workforce." [37]

QHPSCI's public hearings began on Monday 11 March 2013 with phase one focusing on the "Tender Process". The second phase, examining the 'Contract' with IBM, commenced on 22 April 2013. The third and final phase, "Settlement", began on Monday 27 May 2013. The former Premier and two ex-ministers were called to give evidence during this phase. A special hearing was held on the 18 June 2013 to deal with late information submitted to the Commission. The QHPSCI presented its findings to the Premier on 31 July 2013.[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Queensland Health on Facebook". Facebook. 1 September 2016. Retrieved 30 August 2020.
  2. ^ "Contact us". State of Queensland (Queensland Health). Retrieved 9 August 2018.
  3. ^ a b Wakefield, John. "Annual Report 2018-19" (PDF). Queensland Health. p. 64. Retrieved 30 August 2020. Queensland Health employed 90,513 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff at the end of 2018–19.
  4. ^ a b "2019-20 Budget". Queensland Health. 11 June 2019. Retrieved 30 August 2020.
  5. ^ "Hon Dr Steven Miles". Queensland Parliament. Retrieved 30 August 2020.
  6. ^ "Director-General". Queensland Health. 20 September 2019. Retrieved 30 August 2020.
  7. ^ "Queensland's Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young – the woman behind the role". Queensland Health. 13 August 2020. Retrieved 30 August 2020.
  8. ^ "Queensland Health organisational structure". Queensland Health. 20 September 2019. Retrieved 30 August 2020.
  9. ^ "Free Hospital Treatment". The Worker. Brisbane. 7 January 1946. p. 10. Retrieved 30 August 2020 – via Trove (National Library of Australia).
  10. ^ "Medicare". Services Australia. Retrieved 30 August 2020.
  11. ^ "What's covered by Medicare". Services Australia. 20 May 2019. Retrieved 30 August 2020.
  12. ^ "Reciprocal Health Care Agreements". Services Australia. 3 December 2019. Retrieved 30 August 2020.
  13. ^ "About us". Health Quality and Complaints Commission. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  14. ^ a b Steven Wardill & Koren Helbig (12 December 2011). "Queensland Health beyond repair, to be broken up, says Premier Anna Bligh". The Courier Mail. News Queensland. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  15. ^ "Bligh to kill off Queensland Health amid sweeping reforms". Brisbane Times. Fairfax Media. 21 January 2012. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  16. ^ "Health reforms dismissed as a panic move". Herald Sun. Herald and Weekly Times. 21 January 2012. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  17. ^ Australian Health Care Agreements Archived 3 August 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ National Healthcare Agreement 2011
  19. ^ "Hospital Network and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012". Archived from the original on 3 October 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  20. ^ "Hospital and Health Services". Archived from the original on 10 November 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  21. ^ "Corporate Office transition to System Manager". Queensland Health. Archived from the original on 10 November 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  22. ^ a b "About Hospital and Health Services". State of Queensland (Queensland Health). Retrieved 17 September 2014.
  23. ^ "State of Queensland (Department of Health) Annual Report 2012-2013" (PDF). State of Queensland (Queensland Health). Retrieved 17 September 2014.
  24. ^ a b c Healy, Judith (2011). Improving Health Care Safety and Quality: Reluctant Regulators. Farnham, England: Ashgate Publishing. p. 34. ISBN 0-7546-7644-7. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  25. ^ a b Amelia Bentley (1 July 2010). "'Totally inadequate': verdict split on Patel sentence". Brisbane Times. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  26. ^ Patel v The Queen [2012] HCA 29, (2012) 247 CLR 531 (24 August 2012), High Court (Australia).
  27. ^ Jared Owens (24 August 2012). "Jayant Patel walks free after High Court quashes manslaughter convictions". The Australian.
  28. ^ Brooke Baskin; Tony Keim; Josh Robertson (14 March 2013). "Jayant Patel not guilty over patient death but more charges loom". The Courier Mail. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  29. ^ a b Francene Norton & Jason Rawlins (22 November 2013). "Former Bundaberg-based doctor Jayant Patel sentenced over fraud charges". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
  30. ^ "Medical Board of Australia v Patel [2015] QCAT 133 (11 May 2015)". www8.austlii.edu.au. Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal. 11 May 2015. Retrieved 13 March 2021 – via Australasian Legal Information Institute.
  31. ^ Taylor, John (15 May 2015). "Bundaberg surgeon Jayant Patel barred from ever practising medicine again in Australia". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  32. ^ "Bligh cancels overseas trip to fix payroll problems". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 20 April 2010. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  33. ^ Rosanne Barrett (22 April 2010). "Qld Health payroll debacle worsens". The Australian. News Limited. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  34. ^ Kym Agius (5 May 2010). "Qld Health payroll system in chaos: ASU". The Australian. News Limited. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  35. ^ a b "Queensland-Health-Payroll-System-Commission-of-Inquiry-Report" (PDF). State of Queensland. 31 July 2013. Retrieved 28 October 2017. pg216
  36. ^ Chris O'Brien (23 November 2010). "More than $200m to fix health payroll system". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  37. ^ "Commissioner's directions hearing remarks" (PDF). www.healthpayrollinquiry.qld.gov.au. 1 February 2013. Retrieved 13 March 2021.
  38. ^ "Queensland Health Payroll System Commission of Inquiry". healthpayrollinquiry.qld.gov.au. 2013. Retrieved 13 March 2021. Final Report

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