Report reveals bullying at Hauora Tairawhiti

HAUORA Tairawhiti has the highest rate of bullying among senior doctors in the country, a report by the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) claims.

Jim Green, chief executive of Hauora Tairawhiti, wants to discuss the report with the local branch of the ASMS and clinical leaders.

“There is a lot of detail in the report that deserves careful analysis before drawing any conclusions, apart from the fact that it is well recognised that bullying is a feature in health services, as the report notes.”

Staff had raised the issue of bullying, and management and staff wanted “bad behaviour” addressed, he said.

The report by ASMS principal analyst Charlotte Chambers shows 37.2 percent of senior doctors and dentists said they had been bullied.

More than two thirds, or 67.5 percent, of survey participants had witnessed colleagues bullied.

Without revealing figures, the report claims Hauora Tairawhiti and Whanganui District Health had the highest rate of bullying. Behaviour it described ranged from violence, threats and intimidation, through to humiliation, allegations and gossip.

Dr Hein Stander, ASMS national president and a paediatrician at Hauora Tairawhiti, said bullying was not a diagnosis.

“It's a symptom, a symptom of a health system that has significant systemic problems.”

Mr Green said Hauora Tairawhiti had revised policy and provided training on responding to and preventing bullying and harassment.

“At a national level, this is a joint work area between health boards and sector unions, which is in part why the ASMS has completed the survey, to gain more insight into the problem which will inform action."

Behaviour's effects

Such behaviour affected “individuals, teams and, above all, the care that can be provided for people”.

“Our joint union consultative committee is taking a lead on this and we have a work programme through our staff engagement committee, to work on this plus other ways in which the work experience at Hauora Tairawhiti can be further improved, with flow-on benefits for patients.”

Dr Stander said the evidence showed that bullying was commonplace.

District Health Boards had a duty to provide its employees with a safe work environment and a duty to intervene and break the vicious cycle.

ASMS had been challenging poor workplace policies and insisting on sensible processes for dealing with bullying and other complaints.

“As a caring profession, we also have a duty to intervene and break this vicious cycle," Dr Stander said.

"The ASMS encourages members to take part in the various courses and programmes now being promulgated by health boards and medical colleges."

Dr Stander said the Government also had a responsibility to health services to ensure all health sector employers could provide safe environments for patients and staff.

“This includes ensuring that workload pressures are manageable and that there is adequate workforce capacity to deliver the services upon which our patients depend.

“I am fully aware that the new Government has inherited a public health service that has been under-resourced for a number of years.

“I implore the new Minister of Health, the Director General of Health and Treasury not to distance themselves from this, but to recognise their responsibility and be part of the solution.”

More to do

Mr Green said he agreed with Dr Stander that more could be done.

“We need to continue the joint work with the ASMS and other unions to this effect.”

The report said:

  • The prevalence of bullying among New Zealand’s senior doctors appears higher than shown in comparable international surveys of health sector workers.
  • Workplace bullying occurs more often, and in different forms, for certain groups of senior doctors, e.g overseas-trained doctors working in New Zealand, women, doctors aged 40 to 59 and in some specialities (emergency medicine, general surgery and specialist surgery).
  • Only a third of doctors who said they had been bullied reported what had happened, with the main reasons for not reporting being fear of not being supported and concern that reporting it would make the situation worse.
  • The prevalence of bullying is strongly associated with high workplace demands, and low peer and non-clinical managerial support. Hauora Tairawhiti recorded the lowest level of peer support, but was rated 18th out of the country’s 20 boards in terms of high workplace demands.
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HAUORA Tairawhiti has the highest rate of bullying among senior doctors in the country, a report by the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) claims.

Jim Green, chief executive of Hauora Tairawhiti, wants to discuss the report with the local branch of the ASMS and clinical leaders.

“There is a lot of detail in the report that deserves careful analysis before drawing any conclusions, apart from the fact that it is well recognised that bullying is a feature in health services, as the report notes.”

Staff had raised the issue of bullying, and management and staff wanted “bad behaviour” addressed, he said.

The report by ASMS principal analyst Charlotte Chambers shows 37.2 percent of senior doctors and dentists said they had been bullied.

More than two thirds, or 67.5 percent, of survey participants had witnessed colleagues bullied.

Without revealing figures, the report claims Hauora Tairawhiti and Whanganui District Health had the highest rate of bullying. Behaviour it described ranged from violence, threats and intimidation, through to humiliation, allegations and gossip.

Dr Hein Stander, ASMS national president and a paediatrician at Hauora Tairawhiti, said bullying was not a diagnosis.

“It's a symptom, a symptom of a health system that has significant systemic problems.”

Mr Green said Hauora Tairawhiti had revised policy and provided training on responding to and preventing bullying and harassment.

“At a national level, this is a joint work area between health boards and sector unions, which is in part why the ASMS has completed the survey, to gain more insight into the problem which will inform action."

Behaviour's effects

Such behaviour affected “individuals, teams and, above all, the care that can be provided for people”.

“Our joint union consultative committee is taking a lead on this and we have a work programme through our staff engagement committee, to work on this plus other ways in which the work experience at Hauora Tairawhiti can be further improved, with flow-on benefits for patients.”

Dr Stander said the evidence showed that bullying was commonplace.

District Health Boards had a duty to provide its employees with a safe work environment and a duty to intervene and break the vicious cycle.

ASMS had been challenging poor workplace policies and insisting on sensible processes for dealing with bullying and other complaints.

“As a caring profession, we also have a duty to intervene and break this vicious cycle," Dr Stander said.

"The ASMS encourages members to take part in the various courses and programmes now being promulgated by health boards and medical colleges."

Dr Stander said the Government also had a responsibility to health services to ensure all health sector employers could provide safe environments for patients and staff.

“This includes ensuring that workload pressures are manageable and that there is adequate workforce capacity to deliver the services upon which our patients depend.

“I am fully aware that the new Government has inherited a public health service that has been under-resourced for a number of years.

“I implore the new Minister of Health, the Director General of Health and Treasury not to distance themselves from this, but to recognise their responsibility and be part of the solution.”

More to do

Mr Green said he agreed with Dr Stander that more could be done.

“We need to continue the joint work with the ASMS and other unions to this effect.”

The report said:

  • The prevalence of bullying among New Zealand’s senior doctors appears higher than shown in comparable international surveys of health sector workers.
  • Workplace bullying occurs more often, and in different forms, for certain groups of senior doctors, e.g overseas-trained doctors working in New Zealand, women, doctors aged 40 to 59 and in some specialities (emergency medicine, general surgery and specialist surgery).
  • Only a third of doctors who said they had been bullied reported what had happened, with the main reasons for not reporting being fear of not being supported and concern that reporting it would make the situation worse.
  • The prevalence of bullying is strongly associated with high workplace demands, and low peer and non-clinical managerial support. Hauora Tairawhiti recorded the lowest level of peer support, but was rated 18th out of the country’s 20 boards in terms of high workplace demands.
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