Contributed by Glen
You would imagine that workers in the health field would be well treated, respected and provided with a workplace(s) that would benefit their health and wellbeing. However, it appears there are serious problems in Victorian health care workplaces, if you believe the findings of a recent report by the Auditor General.
Released in March 2016 the report, titled Bullying and Harassment in the Health Sector, found that public sector health agencies failed to recognise, or take appropriate intervention against the serious Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) problems of bullying and harassment. It seems that some employers are not aware of the fact psychological damage is classed as a form of personal injury, for which a victim could hire someone like this personal injury attorney in Morgantown to help them seek compensation. Complaints of this nature should be taken far more seriously and employees should be encouraged to share any such issues they are having.
The Audit was conducted over five work places. One was a work site of Ambulance Victoria, with four public hospitals overseen by Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), being the other chosen locations. The four hospitals comprised two metropolitan, one regional, and one rural. Public submissions were also provided. The findings highlighted the managerial culture(s), not using a risk management approach, poor training of staff combined with inadequate policies and procedures making these workplaces risky to the health and safety of health workers.
You may ask what is bullying and harassment? How does it impact upon the health of victims? Workplace bullying is defined as repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.
Harassment is when a person or group is treated less favourably than another, because of a particular characteristic, i.e. age or ethnicity.
Victims of bullying experience a range of traumas, which can include becoming anxious, depressed, and unable to concentrate, often not wanting to go to work, and at worst becoming suicidal. The impacts on a workplace include increased sick leave, high staff turnover, toxic workplace cultures and an unpleasant environment for staff and those they are working to care for.
In 2013 25 percent of Victorian public sector health workers experienced bullying, the highest amount of all Victorian public sector agencies. 42 percent of health workers witnessed bullying. To put these figures in context, only 32% of all Victorian public sector workers witnessed bullying and only 18% of them experienced bullying.
The report mentions some staff are the sector are considered ‘untouchable’ despite their bullying behaviour. Cronyism is also mentioned. The overall lack of a through risk management approach compounded by many health workers seeing alleged bullies in positions of power or at the very least protected by people in positions of power does not inspire great faith in the OH&S practices in Victoria’s public health system.
The health sector seemed unable to demonstrate effective controls. Complaint management left much to be desired, inadequate record keeping, and under reporting were all reported. A comprehensive risk management approach was/is not in place to protect Victorian health workers, leaving victims of bullying very vulnerable. There is a serious need for businesses like Workplace Partners to help places similar to this to help them with their HR management. If HR is managed better then hopefully the cases of workplace bullying will be taken more seriously.
There is a sad under reporting of bullying. Victims who have raised issues have received unfavourable rostering and leave; some have been transferred to another area/unit, not of their choosing. People are scared to speak up due to repercussions. This reflects the poor governance in place. Bullying is treated as an individual problem, for a one on one response. The broader issue of workplace cultures and appropriate governance appear untouched.
There are 12 recommendations that it is hoped health sector agencies will take on board to deal with this problem. Rather than spell them all out here I recommend reader’s google the title of the report. It’s all there on-line.
One important recommendation, beyond the terms of the report, health workers should take on board, is to organise. The rise of bullying has gone hand in glove with declining unionisation, the increase of casualisation and temporary work. Don’t agonise, organise!