The second annual review into workplace culture in the ACT public health system has shown that while reform is underway, there’s still work to be done to address reports of bullying and harassment.
Although instances of bullying or inappropriate behaviour had decreased at ACT Health and Calvary Public Hospital, little had changed at Canberra Health Services.
One staff member responded to the survey saying that “there have been no changes in staff when there should have been – known perpetrators are still in their positions.”
Another noted, “there is a culture of fear”.
Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith, who tabled the report in the Assembly last week, said this kind of staff feedback had proven there is more work to do, particularly around establishing expectations of positive workplace behaviour and holding people to account “when they are not living those behaviours”.
“We know that improving culture is not something that happens overnight,” she said.
Canberra Health Services interim CEO Dave Peffer said implementing programs was not enough if staff did not feel as though anything had changed.
“Work is underway to build team members’ courage and confidence, to empower them to call out behaviours that aren’t consistent with our values, and to escalate those matters if required,” he said.
Mr Peffer said anyone – no matter how senior their role – who was consistently demonstrating poor behaviour would be shown the door in the coming months.
“It’s line in the sand time and it’s about actually taking action against those who don’t exhibit the values and behaviours we expect to see,” he said.
“Some of those people are in very senior roles within the organisation and they shouldn’t be.”
Ms Stephen-Smith said she is also aware work on improving workplace culture would need to continue beyond the implementation of the 20 recommendations.
She was, however, pleased that the second review had shown good progress in laying the foundations for system-wide cultural change – particularly in areas such as improving training programs and procedures for addressing complaints.
An initial review made public in 2019 made a damning assessment of the system, revealing problems with bullying, harassment and the inefficiency of the complaints process across the ACT Health Directorate, Canberra Health Services and Calvary Public Hospital Bruce.
It also listed a total of 92 actions under 20 recommendations to help implement change within the ACT health system.
Ms Stephen-Smith said so far, eight recommendations have been completed while significant progress has been made on the other 12.
She said out of 92 identified actions, 60 of these have now been completed, 26 of them are on track and six are being actively managed with all recommendations expected to be addressed by 30 June 2022.
The ACT Government has previously come under fire for the speed at which the recommendations made in the 2019 review are being implemented.
Opposition spokesperson on health, Giulia Jones, said the implementation of the cultural review recommendations continued to be a disappointment.