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Senior clinician raised ‘subtle bullying’ at Letterkenny hospital

By Catherine Reilly - 12th May 2024

A senior clinician at Letterkenny University Hospital (LUH) told an internal meeting he had witnessed “subtle bullying” in the hospital.

Consultant General Surgeon Mr Kenneth Oaikhinan, Associate Clinical Director of the Perioperative Directorate, made the comments at a meeting of the hospital executive board last July.

The meeting minutes, obtained under Freedom of Information law, noted that Human Resources would be asked to “resend the Dignity at Work Policy to all staff”. The meeting heard that LUH “will not tolerate bullying”.

A spokesperson for Saolta University Health Care Group told the Medical Independent that LUH does not compile statistics in relation to bullying reports.

However, they said LUH has “zero tolerance” in relation to workplace bullying and the HSE has relevant policies in place, including the Dignity at Work Policy for Public Health Service (Revised 2022).

In September 2023, face-to-face sessions on the revised Dignity at Work Policy 2022 were delivered in LUH by the Saolta Group Lead for Staff Engagement and Wellbeing. 

“These sessions have proven extremely beneficial from a staff point of view as they provide a forum in which to ask questions pertinent to their working areas; there is also an opportunity for feedback and for role play scenarios. Additional sessions were held in February 2024 with further sessions scheduled in Q4 2024,” said the spokesperson.

“Other supports also in place for staff are access to an onsite occupational health department where staff can self-refer. Staff also have access to the employee assistance programme, which is a work-based support service for staff and the organisation. This is a confidential independent service. It supports employees with psychosocial issues (psychological and social factors that influence mental health). These issues may be personal, work-related, or both, affecting job performance or home life.”

All staff at LUH are encouraged to highlight issues or complaints to their line manager in the first instance, “where their issue or complaint will be listened to in confidence”.

According to the 2023 HSE staff survey, 24 per cent of staff in HSE hospitals said they had experienced bullying/harassment from a manager/team leader or other colleagues in the previous two years, while 34 per cent had witnessed such behaviours. Some 18 per cent of staff in HSE hospitals said they had experienced bullying/harassment from patients/members of the public in the previous two years, while 27 per cent had witnessed such behaviours.

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