Former health chief takes stand at unfair dismissal trial

Former Tasmanian Health Organisation South chief executive Jane Holden has spoken of the professional and personal cost of losing her job and facing allegations of nepotism within the health system. 

Ms Holden is attempting to claim up to $2.2 million in damages from the state government, on the grounds she was wrongfully terminated from her role in 2014, and should be compensated for loss of income and damage to her reputation.

I was absolutely shattered.

Jane Holden

Ms Holden presented evidence at a trial into her dismissal at the Supreme Court in Hobart on Tuesday.

She said she had received a “huge shock” when an Integrity Commission report alleged she had wrongfully appointed her husband and an associate to positions within the organisation. 

“There was no suggestion anything was anything wrong until the Integrity Commission suggested it,” Ms Holden said. 

“I was absolutely shattered.”

Ms Holden told the court no “special conditions” were granted to her husband and associate as THO employees.

She said media coverage of events surrounding her termination had significantly impacted her reputation and future employment opportunities. 

“[When you Google my name] it’s a very negative extract of various reports that have been published over time,” Ms Holden said. 

“I wanted to get back into the workforce and get my life back.” 

Ms Holden said she applied for about 12 jobs before obtaining a position as the chief executive of a hospital in Papua New Guinea in August this year. 

Former member of the THO South governing council, Lisa Michelle Wardlaw-Kelly, said communication issues had been a concern during Ms Holden’s tenure, however, Ms Holden had performed well in her role. 

Ms Holden acknowledged communication and management-style issues had been raised and she had taken them on board. 

“I had an open forum every month with the staff and the feedback was positive,” Ms Holden said. 

“I was very aware that it wasn’t helping us if I needed to change my style.” 

The trial will resume on Wednesday.