A Community Affairs References Committee that investigated the prevalence of cases of bullying and harassment in the Australian medical profession and the complaints process as a tool of harassment has tabled a report with recommendations in the Senate.
“The senate inquiry into bullying and harassment in the Australian medical professional has unearthed some worrying evidence, with submissions and witnessing indicating a culture of bullying that urgently needs addressing”, Australian Greens Senator and Chair of the Community Affairs References Committee Rachel Siewert said today.
“The committee has recommended that all parties responsible for addressing bullying and harassment, including governments, hospitals, medical bodies and universities work together in an ongoing and sustained way to eliminate these worrying behaviours.
“The committee has also recommended that universities should adopt a curriculum that includes compulsory education on bullying and harassment. Students must feel comfortable about making a complaint and procedures must be clearly defined. Hospitals should also take responsibility, it is recommended they review their code of conduct and specifically point to a zero tolerance approach on harassment and bullying.
“Evidence suggested the medical complaints process run by AHPRA is being used as a harassment tool, with claims that some medical professionals are using the complaints process in a troublesome way, causing considerable stress. We heard of medical professionals having vexatious complaints lodged against them as a means of harassing them.
“While the processes for the public to lodge complaints against medical professionals is generally sound, it was acknowledged that the rare misuse of the complaints system could have significant impact on the individual, with no consequences for those who make the vexatious complaints.
“All parties should acknowledge that failing to address this issue that permeates the medical profession can result in a public safety issue as it adversely impacts on our health professionals.
“The committee recommends that there be further investigation into the complaints system and has introduced a motion for a further specific inquiry into the complaints mechanism administered under the Health Practitioners Regulation National Law.
“We cannot afford to have a health system plagued by bullying and harassment. Our medical professionals need to be highly functioning and working without fear. The medical profession needs a robust, transparent and respected complaints process in order to ensure public safety”.