Ballarat Health Services board chair Rowena Coutts has apologised “sincerely and unreservedly” for a toxic bullying culture within the organisation.
Speaking after today’s release of two reports into bullying and harassment at BHS over a lengthy period, Ms Coutts also said she was “deeply concerned about the cultural issues identified within these reports”.
“As chair of the board, I accept responsibility on behalf of the board for the culture of BHS and the safety of its workforce,” Ms Coutts said.
An adult mental health service cultural review by Susan Zeitz of Peacemaker ADR said it was “a dysfunctional mental health service that has exacted a significant personal price from people working within it”.
“Poor behaviour has been modelled from the most senior management levels, adopted and applied across teams. Poor management practice has been replicated, supported and enforced to the detriment of the mental health service. Those practices have in turn rewarded poor behaviour.”
The review also said the “most insidious and damaging consequence of ongoing poor behaviour” by senior managers has been to make poor behaviour and its acceptance an entrenched “form of normalcy”.
“It was not until the youth team reached a point of desperation as a team that the toxic culture was fully disclosed.”
In response to the review, BHS has established a people and culture board sub committee to oversee the reports’ recommendations.
This will include a board and executive capability audit, an organisational structure review starting with mental health services and human resources, a new complaints manager position reporting directly to the chief executive officer and enhanced training of all staff, including workplace behaviour.
It will also offer an improved Employee Assistant Program to all formed staff interviewed for both reports and a protected disclosure process to report inappropriate behaviours.
Specific to mental health services, the committee will review the mental health directorate structure, recruitment proactices and give all former mental health employees the chance to take part in a confidential debrief session with BHS board members.'
All pre-approved overtime will also be paid in accordance with the award and past overtime claims will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
“Though we have a long way to go, these actions affirm our commitment to take all steps possible to stamp out the cultural issues that exist within BHS and achieve a best practice workplace for each and every member of our 4100-strong workforce.
“In particular, we will ensure we have an appropriate and effective complaints process that not only encourages the reporting of poor behaviour, but also the positive behaviours that we want to reinforce.
“All staff, no matter their position, will be held to account.”
More to come.