Health Minister Jill Hennessy has dodged questions on whether the state government will seek sanctions against Ballarat Health Services for breach of its bullying contract.
Ms Hennessy met with BHS chief executive officer Dale Fraser and board chair Rowena Coutts on Friday to sign a new 12-month contract which made explicit reference to procedures for bullying and harassment complaints.
A “statement of priorities agreement” signed by every health service has included strict bullying and harassment clauses since 2015, with penalties including censure through to closure of the service.
There is also an obligation under the Occupational Work and Safety Act, Ms Hennessy said.
Asked whether the state government would pursue sanctions for a breach of the pre-existing contract, Ms Hennessy said a number of individual complaints were underway.
“There’s a range of individual industrial issues that are being pursued but we certainly believe that there was a cultural problem at BHS,” Ms Hennessy said.
“From the health service perspective, their obligations come from the statement of priorities but there are a range of individual matters that are on foot and I’m not in a position to talk about what those individuals are doing.
“Those are matters that have been pursued by the union and that is what people are entitled to do.”
Penalties for breaching the new agreement or failing to implement the report’s recommendations include withholding funds and intervention at a board level, depending on the issue, Ms Hennessy said.
“I think that there does need to be accountability and responsibility when people are bullied and harassed, that is set out in the statement of priorities.
“Certainly BHS understand that it is the view of the government that having a culture where people are bullied, harassed and discriminated against is unacceptable and they’ve certainly given both myself and their board the commitment that they will get on with implementing the recommendations.”
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