THE first in a number of investigations and reports set to be conducted into an alleged culture of bullying at Ballarat Health Service has been released.
The damning report looks into allegations raised by The Courier last year focusing on a poor culture within the Youth Mental Health Service team.
In the wake of the report, BHS chairman Andrew Faull has apologised to staff who were at the coalface of some of the cultural problems for behaviour which he said was “well below” what should be expected.
“The board and the organsiation has a zero tolerance to any bullying and harassment, that is an absolutely clear position,” he said.
“Clearly there has been sustained behaviours existing that fall well below what we expect as an organisation and on behalf of the board and the exec (executive team) we sincerely apologise to staff that have been exposed and subjected to those kinds of behaviour.
“There really is a genuine desire (...) to make a signal to the whole organisation that we want to make genuine improvements to the workplace and the cultural settings within the organisation.”
The report, which is damning of a number of practises within the youth mental health team, revealed some staff who were interviewed presented in “distressed state, reflecting the strain of recent events and their own work experience”.
The report paints a stark picture for staff in the department who were overworked with far too many clients, worked significant overtime hours for which they were not paid, were under supported and felt under valued by the organisation.
It also describes the management style of staff as “autocratic, directive and critical”.
“It is evident that a management and communication style manifested on occasions which was unfiltered and perfunctory and reactionary,” the report reads.
These are problems both BHS acting chief executive Andrew Kinnersly and Mr Faull believe they have already taken the first steps in trying to address.
The Courier has previously reported the youth team has had a 100 per cent turnover in staff, in the three years since its inception due to the culture problems.
Mr Kinnersly said workloads had been reduced by 25 per cent over the past two months and the health service had advertised to fill all vacant positions, which had become one of the biggest causes for the excessive workloads.
“I think the board has asked a lot of questions about culture over the last couple of years. I think we have a wonderful opportunity going froward to make significant change in this space,” he said.
“One of the things we need to get back into this team, but also across the board that we have been working on is building trust and building respect at all levels and that comes through actions.
“That doesn’t come from us talking about what we are going to do, it is what we are doing at the moment with the youth team, listening to the feedback, owning it and looking at the recommendations and putting things into place.
“What that does is repair some of the trust and get some trust back into the team.”
The agency who conducted the report, Peacemaker ADR, will now turn it sights on a broader review of mental health services at BHS.
A further investigation, which will be conducted at the request of the Department of Health, by workplace expert Sarah Rey is expected to get under way within weeks. Mr Kinnersly said terms of reference for Ms Rey had been agreed to and the review was also expected to look at culture across the entire organisation.