BHS bullies "popping up" at other hospitals, says union

Health Workers Union has called for a "register of bullies" within the public health sector.
Health Workers Union has called for a "register of bullies" within the public health sector.

Managers moved on from Ballarat Health Services following damning reports into the services’ workplace culture have resurfaced in senior positions within the state’s public health system, the Health Workers Union said.

Health Workers Union (HWU) assistant secretary David Eden told a Senate inquiry into Corporate Evasion of the Fair Work Act last week that “bullies moved on ... to the very hospitals that the victims of the bullies fled to.”

Reports into the culture at BHS released in August last year found BHS staff had consistently reported experiencing bullying and inappropriate behaviour including nepotism, unjustified retribution, and sectarian and racist abuse.

The reports made no mention of who committed the bullying.

Mr Eden said there should be a “register of bullies” to counter the “scourge of bullying” in the public health sector.

“We want to stamp out bullying and harassment across Victoria because what we’re currently seeing is that where a bully has been identified and removed from an organisation, we see them pop up somewhere else, usually within weeks to months and it takes them a very short time to get settled and they’re predatory behaviour commences all over again.

“Bullying in the public health system isn’t going to be fixed until such time as there is a register of bullies in the health sector so potentially if a bully was retrenched from one organisation, they could not be employed by another organisation if the other organisation has done their checks.”

A spokesperson for Health Minister Jill Hennessy said there were no plans to introduce a bully register “as we have required by law that all health services have strategies in place to prevent bullying and harassment.

“Failure to address bullying and harassment in the workplace is considered a breach of a health services funding agreement with the government and can result in a range of penalties from censure through to in the most exceptional cases, appointment of an administrator or closure of a health service,” the spokesperson said.

However Mr Eden also told the inquiry that the “broom” which swept through BHS following the release of the reports had not gone “deep enough”.

“Workplace bullying and harassment is an absolute scourge in the health system and needs to be stamped out,” he said.

BHS chief executive officer Dale Fraser said staff were becoming more willing to come forward with their experiences. 

“I believe that we have been quite active in the change agenda but these things take much longer than anyone would like them to take,” he said.