BULLYING had been considered rare among Albury Wodonga Health staff.
“It was maybe 20 cases out of 1700 staff,” service boss Stuart Spring said yesterday.
Clearly though, he said, the People Matter Survey that revealed 60 per cent witnessed and 40 per cent experienced bullying was “the tip of the iceberg”.
“There are certainly some people who feel they’ve been bullied and haven’t wanted to take it to anybody,” he said.
While not wanting to denigrate anyone, Dr Spring said some of the bullying revealed in the survey might have been more about general disenchantment — often related to a perception of “not being listened to”.
“There are people who are being performance-managed but are regarding that as being bullied,” he said.
“And I can’t say that the way people are being dealt with isn’t always professional.”
Dr Spring said Albury Wodonga Health had taken some of its staff “through a process” to deal with bullying issues that arose.
“We’re committed to making sure we’ve got a robust way of identifying it, dealing with it and making sure the victim doesn’t feel that they’ve been punished.”
Dr Spring pointed to feedback from the State Services Authority — who carried out the survey — that health often had the worse record for bullying than almost any other industry.
“It’s not always bullying in the legal sense,” he said.
“It can be staff who aren’t nice to each other and being intolerant and departments feeling frustrated and taking it out on individuals.
“Some of it is personal stuff.”
Dr Spring said focus groups would be facilitated outside of the health service “so there won’t be managers trying to put the cork back in the bottle”.
“We’re really throwing ourselves open to the staff, and it may be that extends to the community as well.”
Dr Spring said the service’s performance was poor compared with most Victorian health services.
“Having said that, not one of them has been undergoing the sort of change that we’ve been undergoing, trying to bring together staff who have had quite different industrial environments,” Dr Spring said.
He said one solution might involve setting up an ombudsman-type service whereby an independent person with no ties to management could be the first port-of-call for disillusioned staff.