Culture change needed to tackle bullying problem at South Canterbury DHB , chief executive says

The results of a recent staff survey have thrown up a number of areas of concern for the DHB.

The results of a recent staff survey have thrown up a number of areas of concern for the DHB.

A "change in culture" is needed to tackle an apparent bullying issue within the South Canterbury District Health Board (SCDHB), its chief executive says.

The results of the DHB's Staff Engagement and Wellbeing Survey, carried out in November and December last year, show 41 per cent of staff disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement bullying was not tolerated in their work area.

Chief executive Nigel Trainor said he was "not surprised" by the survey results.

The survey was completed by 377 people, 39 per cent of the DHB's staff.

Trainor said bullying was "not unique" to the SCDHB, but was a wider problem within the New Zealand health system.

"There's not a lot of surprises in this to be honest. This is really confirming what I potentially believed was the case.

​"There's a lot of bullying in health as a whole and it's something we want to bring out to the fore and tackle, actually look at what we can do about that.  

"What we want to do is have a look at our culture, if we have got 41 per cent saying bullying is an issue we need to change that." 

Trainor said addressing bullying would probably start with looking at the SCDHB's values, and having conversations with staff and consumers.

"We have got to have an environment where people are actually confident enough to pull each other up when they see something that is against our values or against those agreed behaviours." 

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E tu union Timaru lead organiser John Gardner said he was concerned by the statistic because it was "extremely hard" to deal with bullying when people were too scared to go through the right channels to deal with it.

"Communication problems are part of the culture of bullying ... working through the whole site is the problem ... it's a wider problem throughout the organisation."

However on the positive side, Gardner said senior management appeared aware of workplace bullying and were tackling the issue.

Public Services Association (PSA) organiser Jen Wilson said the survey raised issues around "communication, career development and the workplace culture" within the SCDHB. 

"The PSA is concerned so many employees of South Canterbury DHB feel that bullying is tolerated in the workplace. We have discussed this issue with representatives of SCDHB and will raise it again.

"No worker should be subjected to bullying in their workplace."

Trainor said he was happy that 39 per cent of staff provided a big enough snapshot of how staff within the organisation felt about their roles, although they would "always want more" people completing the survey.

He said both the SCDHB board members, some of the unions and some staff had already seen the survey results, which would eventually be analysed.

He acknowledged the results also showed the senior leadership team at the hospital "also have to learn to communicate better".

Communication was an issue raised in the survey by staff, with just 24 per cent saying they felt communication among their colleagues was "positive and constructive". 

A New Zealand Nurses Organisation spokeswoman said the professional issues raised in the survey "will have an impact on patient care".

She said that underfunding in the whole New Zealand health system was putting staff under "pressure and stress".

 - Stuff


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