11 June 2020

Report says progress being made on Health culture, but bullying must be addressed

| Michael Weaver
Join the conversation
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

After a troubling independent review last year into bullying, harassment and workplace culture in ACT Health, the review’s author has handed down a report identifying some progress in changing the culture, but also some areas where fundamental change has stalled.

Michael Reid and Associates, which has undertaken health and science projects throughout Australasia, the Pacific and with UN organisations, carried out last year’s major review and Mr Reid also chaired in the Independent Review Panel.

His first annual report says that, on balance, there has been considerable progress in implementing 20 wide-ranging recommendations following the review.

But Mr Reid also found that the whole-of-system recommendations about workplace culture have not progressed at the same pace, and this work will require increased focus during the next year.

Only six of the 20 recommendations were fully on track, and a key recommendation to implement a program across ACT Health to reduce workplace bullying has not been actioned. Recommendations to improve doctors’ engagement and participation in strategy and policy initiatives have also not progressed.

The ACT Government has previously been criticised for its secrecy around problem areas in the ACT’s health system after last year’s review received almost 400 submissions and more than 1900 responses to a staff-wide survey. The final report identified levels of bullying in the health system.

A separate Canberra Health Services survey, launched last November, also found that 46 per cent of the more than 4000 respondents had been exposed to occupational violence in the last 12 months, while only 44 per cent believed that if they were to report a colleague for bullying or harassment that it would be appropriately managed.

The ACT Government was forced to release the results of that survey after a hospital staff member passed it on to the Canberra Liberals who subsequently made the survey public at a press conference at the Canberra Hospital.

The government has since pledged to be as transparent as possible.

The report shows the best results are coming from areas that are in the control of the individual arms of the health system: the ACT Health Directorate, Canberra Health Services and Calvary Public Hospital. ACT Health says that the results show it is “moving in the right direction” to improve workplace culture for the Territory’s health workers.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said Mr Reid’s report highlights a marked shift in a number of areas across the health system, along with a number of improvements.

“Almost all members of the Cultural Review Oversight Group reported some evident improvement in addressing bullying and harassment, executive leadership and human resource functions,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

“I am pleased that this report has confirmed we are heading in the right direction, but I know there remains more to do. Cultural change takes time and requires sustained effort over several years.”

She said the annual review of the Implementation of the Culture Review is an important mechanism to verify progress and identify areas of the cultural review implementation that require further development and focus.

“This report will help the Culture Review Oversight Group to better understand the impact of work so far across the three arms of our public health services – the ACT Health Directorate, Canberra Health Services and Calvary Public Hospital.

“I am pleased to say that nearly all of those who were interviewed for this review thought that progress to date has been generally effective, given the relatively short period of time since the Culture Review was finalised and implementation commenced.

“Across the ACT public health system, we remain committed to achieving real cultural change, and I look forward to continuing to work with system leaders, staff, consumers and all stakeholders to deliver on the full intent of the Culture Review.

“I thank everyone across the ACT public health system for their commitment to developing initiatives and approaches to support positive culture change, recognising that this will benefit the entire health workforce, as well as patients and their families and carers,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.