The HSE has again refused to discuss allegations of widespread bullying in the health service – insisting it has “nothing further to add” to the discussion on Lunchtime Live.
It comes after the issue was raised in the Oireachtas Health Committee today – with Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane warning that he is “really concerned” about the welfare of HSE workers.
He told the interim HSE chief Stephen Mulvany that bullying and harassment were contributing to an “intolerable” working environment for health workers.
In response, Mr Mulvany said, “no form of bullying of our staff by anyone is condoned by us” and insisted the health service was taking the claims “very seriously”.
Kicking off Lunchtime Live this afternoon however, host Andrea Gilligan said: “the listeners we’ve had on the show in recent days don’t seem to think so”.
“So, you have Stephen Mulvaney from the HSE saying this is being taken very seriously,” she said.
“Well, you would know, if you had been listening to our coverage on the show over the last week, we have, time and time again, asked somebody from the HSE to come on the show and chat to us.
“Just to talk through these issues and reassure employees and staff that they will be listened to.
“We got another response from the HSE today: We won’t be putting a spokesperson forward and we have nothing further to add to our initial statement.”
"Just not good enough"
She said the response is “just not good enough” when the show has been inundated with first-hand reports of bullying for more than a week.
“As I read that, [they’re saying]: ‘Nothing more to see here. Good luck, get back to work, carry on, we’ve nothing further to add to this discussion.’
“I’m sorry but I just don’t think that’s good enough. It is not good enough at all
“You are the employer and your staff have been crying out to this program for the past seven days, detailing and recalling these stories of bullying allegations.
“They are calling for action, they are demanding cultural change and I just think that a one-line statement today saying we won’t be putting anybody forward and we have nothing further to add just doesn’t cut it.”
"Not going away"
Andrea again called on Health Minister Stephen Donnelly or either of his junior ministers to come on the show to discuss the allegations.
She also urged HSE workers to continue sending in their reports to the show.
“We are not going to turn our back on this, and we’re going to stay the course,” she said.
At the Oireachtas Health Committee this morning, Deputy Cullinane said he is “really concerned" about the welfare of the HSE’s workers.
“They have been through COVID, they have been through the cyber-attack, they are working round the clock, and they’re being asked to do huge amounts of overtime,” he said
“Last year, there was over 5,000 assaults or near-misses reported […] which is obviously intolerable.
“Lunchtime Live in Newstalk did a feature on bullying and harassment within the healthcare services as well.
“All of those issues, in my view, are intolerable for those working on the front line.”
In response, HSE chief Stephen Mulvany said: “We accept that staff are under very significant pressure and no form of bullying of our staff by anyone is condoned by us or any kind of assault and that is taken very seriously.”
“We are trying to do everything we can to practically support those staff, many of whom we have met on visits in recent weeks.”
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Lunchtime Live began investigating bullying in the HSE after listener Kate contacted the show to say she left the health service altogether after being experiencing bullying in two different roles.
She said one of the experiences was “quite severe” and she left the service because it was impacting on her mental health.
In the days since, Lunchtime Live has been inundated with reports of bullying from nurses and healthcare workers in the sector.
Meanwhile, yesterday we reported that HSE staff have been warned not to talk to the media while Lunchtime Live highlights the claims.
The HSE offered this statement last week – and today insisted it had nothing further to add:
“Any allegation regarding bullying and harassment is taken seriously by the HSE,” it said.
“The dignity of employees is of the utmost importance and there are policies in place to reflect the support provided.
“Disciplinary matters are managed at a local level in the HSE and investigation affords the complainant and the person against whom the complaint has been made fair and due process.”
You can listen back to just some of the HSE bullying reports aired on Lunchtime Live here: