Warrant signing by His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor (Sept 2022)

Callister refutes ‘incompetent’ claims

Ousted Health Minister Rob Callister has hit out against his departmental members in an open letter penned to the chief minister just a day before he was sacked. The Onchan MHK shared the email with members of the media following the announcement this morning. Mr Callister says he feels he went into the role with ‘one hand tied behind [his] back’.

Especially, he says, while the department is without a chief executive in post, ‘ongoing and unresolved legal issues’, and ‘significant department vacancies’.

He goes on to say the morale amongst some of the officers within the department is the lowest he’s witnessed in the past six years.

He claims there have been comments by the three DHSC Members, MLC Tanya August-Hanson, Douglas East MHK Joney Faragher, and Rushen MHK Dr Michelle Haywood, that he was ‘incompetent’.

Comments, he says, he absolutely refutes, adding the ‘seven ministers he’s supported over the past six years will disagree’.

You can read the full open letter from Mr Callister below:

‘Wed 9th Nov 2022 

Evening Chief Minister (Alf), 

Department of Health and Social Care

I would like to start by thanking you personally as the Chief Minister for giving me the opportunity to join the Council of Ministers as the Island’s Health and Social Care Minister.

You will know from our initial discussion back in September when you invited me to take up this important role that originally I didn’t feel the department was right for me or suitable for my core skill set. 

However, over the past few weeks I actually came to the opposite conclusion very quickly. This is mainly due to receiving and responding to hundreds of emails, messages and letters from concerned residents across the island requesting vital help or support, which in turn reinforced my own commitment to do everything I could to improve the island’s health and social care within this administration. 

Looking back over the past couple of weeks, I certainly feel I went into this department with one hand already tied behind my back, especially with no CEO in post, ongoing and unresolved legal issues, significant department vacancies and although the remaining officers in the department were very polite, friendly, professional and supportive, administrative mistakes were common and morale amongst some officers within the department was amongst the lowest I’ve witnessed in any department over the past six years. 

All of these points were raised with you directly as the Chief Minister and with the Chief Secretary very quickly once I took up the position of Minister. This also included various face to face meetings, in order to raise these concerns further and to get the department vacancies filled as a priority, along with looking at other ways of improving the overall morale within the department. 

On top of all of that I had a political team who were challenging and unsupportive, and at a time when all three department Members should have been fully aware of the fragile position that the department was in, especially in the absence of the Chief Executive for the first couple of weeks. 

As for the comments by the three DHSC Members that they felt I was incompetent, I absolutely refute those comments and I am also certain that the seven Ministers I have supported over the past six years, along with many of the departments I have represented, would disagree on that point as well. 

Not being able to answer questions on administrative errors by officers within the department in respect of legal documents submitted and the authorisation of a press release around a CQC report is not incompetence, but it does highlight internal failings of policy and procedure. 

As the Minister, once these errors were identified and I was able to sit down with the Chief Executive, I was able to request changes and improvements to various internal procedures for dealing with correspondence, press releases and board papers, along with ensuring the political Members were aware of their own areas of responsibility. 

With regard to considering my position after our initial discussion yesterday, I have no wish to put additional pressure on you as the Chief Minister, but I cannot with good conscience tender my resignation as I feel there is no evidence of wrongdoing on my part as the Minister, and I do not believe I have been given a fair chance to make the necessary progress within the Department in the few short weeks I have been in post.

I would therefore politely request you to allow me to continue progressing the work we have started to fill the vacancies and increase staff morale within DHSC, and look at the work undertaken with Manx Care and with the Transformation Board, in order to help improve the health and social care services for the people of this island. 

Please take this correspondence as an “open letter” and some or all of the contents could be shared in the future. 

Kind regards 

Rob Callister CMgr, FCMI, MICA, Dip.(ITM), MHK
House of Keys Member for Onchan
Minister for the Department of Health and Social Care ‘

Manx Radio has invited the three political members – Tanya August-Hanson, Joney Faragher and Michelle Haywood – to comment.

Source: manxradio.com