The HSE’s official bullying complaint figures ‘don’t make any sense’, the Irish Medical Organisation has warned.
It comes after a freedom of information request from Newstalk found that just 38 official bullying complaints were made to the HSE last year.
In all, the HSE said it has dealt with 171 bullying complaints in the last five years, with just 29 in 2021 and 17 in 2020.
Meanwhile, 46 complaints were made in 2019 with 41 in 2018.
On Lunchtime Live this afternoon, Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) Chair Dr Matthew Sadlier rejected the figures.
“The immediate reaction is that, you know, the HSE has a staff somewhere in the region of 150,000 people, so the concept that the numbers are that low is just … I don’t believe the numbers are that low, I suppose, is the answer,” he said.
“They seem very, very low for the amount of staff that are within the hospitals.”
Dr Sadlier said recent IMO surveys have found that more than half the doctors working in the health service have experienced bullying at some point in their careers.
Meanwhile, 24% have experienced it in the last two years.
“Given that you have about 10,000 doctors working in the health service, it is very hard to see how those numbers relate back to the 39 reports of bullying that were reported nationally last year,” said Dr Sadlier.
“When you have 10,000 doctors and 50% are saying they have experienced it – it doesn’t make sense.”
According to the figures, just one of the HSE staff members who reported being bullied last year was classed as ‘medical/dental’.
One-third were in management and admin, while just short of a third were in General Support.
Dr Sadlier said the figures do not relate to the situation on the ground.
“One is just surreal,” he said.
“It does show that there is a culture of a problem of reporting - how those cases are logged and then reported up - but there is also a problem of people not reporting these when they experience it.”
He said that a lot of HSE doctors tend to rotate roles frequently – meaning many decide to “ride it out” when facing troubles in work.
“The problem is, then the person who replaces you and the person who replaces them will experience it and because nobody is there any length of time, it is never actually properly dealt with.
“So that is a big issue.”
The HSE figures only include complaints notified to the Human Resources National Investigations Unit.
Complaints managed by local services are not held centrally.