Victoria’s Auditor General on Bullying and Harassment in the Health Sector
Late in March the Victorian Auditor General released a new report into the healthcare sector investigating bullying and harassment. And as you can imagine the findings are not great. In fact the findings from the investigation paint a very ugly picture of how prevalent bullying and harassment is in healthcare.
The report focuses on doctors and clinicians with the report highlighting that many junior doctors and clinicians experience bullying and harassment, a lack of support from senior staff and management, and a culture of fear around confronting and challenging bullying and harassment. But as we all know these sorts of concerns are not just limited to doctors and clinicians, they’re shared by all staff across the entire public healthcare system – whether you’re a medical scientist, a dietitian, a pharmacist or a psychologist.
Despite the fact that healthcare services in Victoria are required to have policies and processes around bullying and harassment, the Auditor General was quite scathing in their assessment of how healthcare services prioritise and manage allegations of bullying and harassment. The report highlighted failings in leadership from Boards and executive teams, insufficient priority given to complaints of bullying and harassment, poor accountability and under-reporting of inappropriate behaviour including bullying and harassment.
The report also highlighted that the policies and procedures at the audited services were not effective in reducing inappropriate behaviours including bullying and harassment. It also found that training and education was limited, not mandatory and delivered on an ad hoc basis. There was ineffective early intervention, inadequate management of formal complaints and insufficient guidance and assistance at a sector-wide level from the Department of Health and Human Services, WorkSafe and the Victorian Public Sector Commission.
There is little doubt that bullying and harassment is occurring in our workplaces. You only need to look at the recent reports in the media about the extent of bullying and harassment in healthcare. But the report is crucially important in continuing to shine a light on bullying and harassment in healthcare. And it’s another important part to addressing the failure of management to properly deal with complaints and to subsequently create a healthier and safer work environments.
Bullying and harassment in the workplace are very serious issues and not taken lightly by the Union. If you think you are being harassed or bullied at work, it is vital that you start documenting it. And if you’ve ever found yourself in a situation that involves threats to harm someone, acts of violence, assault, property damage and stalking these should be referred to the police because they are criminal matters.
The Auditor General has made 16 recommendations to address bullying and harassment and the Union expects the Andrews Government to implement all 16 recommendations. The Union is waiting for a response by the Government to the recommendations from the Auditor General and will report the Government’s response when it’s announced.