Specialists cite DHB's sore points

GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last updated 05:00 05/12/2012

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Operating-theatre staff turnover, bullying, competitive recruitment between Southland and Dunedin hospitals, and an offensive advertisement at Southland Hospital have been highlighted in an annual union report.

They are issues that the Southern District Health Board says it is aware of and is working through.

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists chairman Ian Powell referred to the tensions as being particular to the Southern District in the association annual report for 2012, made public this week.

Mr Powell said yesterday that an example was the wording in an advertisement for a clinical director this year, which he believed was derogatory and unfair, especially in light of staffing levels.

Reports of tensions in the operating theatre had been raised in the past, he said.

Last November The Southland Times reported that staff in the operating theatre had described the environment as toxic, and said they had been bullied into taking on extra hours.

Yesterday Mr Powell said the bullying had not been "by doctors to nurses" nor had it come from a range of people.

He would not elaborate further.

One area of sensitivity had been the job advertisement, which he had asked to be either removed or reworded.

"The advertisement implied that the specialists were old school, that they were old hat. Not dynamic. But [the advertisement said) there was a new management culture that was coming.

"This is offensive because the [theatre] has been chronically understaffed . . . they've left specialists to struggle on their own."

The "new dynamic" promised in the advertisement was about as "dynamic as a tortoise", he said.

He understood hospital management had taken steps in September to deal with reports of the bullying that had led to staff turnover.

Mr Powell would not say what the steps were. He was unsure if it had made a difference to the theatre environment.

Southern District Health Board chief medical officer David Tulloch said yesterday that the board took the matters raised seriously, but would not discuss it further in the media.

It was also building a more constructive relationship with the union.

The board was happy with the progress being made, he said.

Mr Powell said he was also aware that recruitment between Southland and Dunedin hospitals had been identified during the year as being "competitive".

This was not in line with the "regionalisation of the Southern District" that the board had been promoting since the Otago and Southland district health boards amalgamated in 2010, he said.

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