Health report exposes poor work culture

THE interim report into workplace culture in Canberra’s public health services “overwhelmingly highlighted” bullying, harassment and inappropriate workplace practices. 

Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris described it as “difficult reading” when the ACT government, today (Friday, February 1), released the “Independent Review into the Workplace Culture within ACT Public Health Services”.

Close to 400 submissions were received from staff, former staff, family members of patients, consumers, members of the public, Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), health care groups and unions.

The submissions highlighted:

• inappropriate behaviours and bullying and harassment in the workplace

• inefficient procedures and processes including complaints handling

• inadequate training in dealing with inappropriate workplace practices

• inability to make timely decisions

• poor leadership and management at many levels throughout the ACT Public Health System, and

• inefficient and inappropriate Human Resource (HR) practices, including recruitment.

The survey results were similar across all three arms of the ACT Public Health System ( such as Canberra Health Services, Calvary Public Hospital and the Health Directorate) and were worse than comparable data for NSW Health.

According to the report, the results pointed to a number of concerning trends with 60 per cent of respondents having witnessed bullying over the past twelve months and 35 per cent having experienced bullying themselves. Most of the bullying was staff-on-staff.

“The treatment of staff in [redacted], is appalling. I have worked in [redacted] for nearly [xx] years and have never witnessed such a disgraceful approach to work ethics. There has been a number of staff leave the area due to the stress of how they were treated. At ACT Health, we feel there is nowhere to go, no one who will listen, no one who will stand up for us, that shows that Health support the bullying of managers.”

Submission

“Of great concern was that 12 per cent of staff indicated they had been subjected to physical harm, sexual harassment or abuse at work,” the report says.

“Of these staff, 46 per cent indicated it was by someone they worked with and 37 per cent was by a member of the public.

“A point regularly raised in submissions was that whilst the contribution of poor leadership over the past few years has led to this unhealthy workplace culture, it was also generally acknowledged that this poor culture had been present for many years.”

The review also highlighted the inadequacy of the HR practices across all levels of the ACT Public Health System, particularly around HR systems and the local implementation of policies and procedures.

“Consistently raised themes include, inappropriate recruitment practices, lack of ‘customer’ focus by HR staff, opaque, often heavy-handed processes of complaints handling, a perception of insufficient and uncoordinated training programs and general inefficiencies and duplication of HR processes and practices,” the report says.

One submission read: “I raised numerous complaints with HR, management and the director which were never actioned.”

The ACT government has agreed to all of the recommendations “in principle”, noting that this is an interim report.

The panel will now conduct a final round of consultation with key stakeholders before finalising the report in coming weeks.

The report can be accessed via health.act.gov.au/Culture-Review

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1 COMMENT

  1. I have had a number of interactions with management levels of various areas of the ACT Health system over poor service, poor staff knowledge, abuse of power /regulations and all have been very unsatisfactory. Dealing with the management who would not listen, were authoritarian and arrogant. One incident just added to the initial stress experienced from a minor health treatment. This situation then extended over 8 hours, involved 2 dreadful health workers and 6 police. The next day 2 high-ranking police came to the house apologising for their part, which they didn’t agree with, but they had to follow Health Department instructions.
    Too this day I’m still waiting for Health Dept apology. But won’t be holding my breath.
    That experience was a number of years ago but nothing improved in Health Dept since then.
    When you send an accident patient home from Emergency after 7 hours as okay and they actually had 4 fractured ribs and 3 fractures in pelvis, you have a broken system. Hospital called next day saying there was 1 rib fracture.
    It took 3 weeks, $800 and private surgeon to make a proper diagnosis. Hospital Management response. Nil.

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