There can be “no tolerance” for workplace bullying in the HSE, the Health Minister has said.
Speaking on his way into Cabinet this morning, Stephen Donnelly said he has heard the allegations of bullying reported by Lunchtime Live for over a week, and insisted he takes them “very, very seriously”.
The Newstalk show has been inundated with stories from health workers who say they have been bullied in the workplace since it first highlighted the issue eight days ago.
The show has been asking the HSE, Minister Donnelly and his junior ministers to come on and discuss the issue ever since; however, none have been available.
In a statement yesterday, the HSE said it wouldn’t be coming on the show and had “nothing to add” to its initial three-line statement on the matter.
This morning @DonnellyStephen responded to reports on @LunchtimeLiveNT about bullying in the HSE. @andreagilligan will have more from 12pm. pic.twitter.com/UyEQlxXqAM
— NewstalkFM (@NewstalkFM) January 18, 2023
Speaking outside Government Buildings this morning, Minister Donnelly said he is taking the issue seriously.
“In terms of internal issues, where there are situations and we have testimony and we have heard from people who potentially are being bullied – that is never acceptable,” he said.
“It is something that I know the HSE takes very seriously, I take very seriously and the Government takes very seriously.
“It is something I will be discussing on an ongoing basis with my department and with the HSE.”
He said there can be “no tolerance for our healthcare workers being bullied within the workplace at all”.
“We take all such allegations and all such testimony very, very seriously,” he said.
Minister Donnelly said there are also concerns over healthcare staff “coming under pressure from patients or from the families of patients”.
He said this was also “never acceptable” and suggested that extra nursing staff are being put in place in hospitals around the country to meet new ‘safe staffing levels’.
“One of the reasons we are doing that is because it reduces the abuse - and the assaults sometimes - on our healthcare workers, which is never acceptable,” he said.
Kicking off the show yesterday, Lunchtime Live host Andrea Gilligan said the HSE’s refusal to put forward a spokesperson is “just not good enough”.
“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.”
She was speaking after the issue was raised in the Oireachtas Health Committee – with Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane warning that he was “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”.
Lunchtime Live has been inundated with reports of bullying in the health system from nurses and healthcare workers since it began covering the story.
Meanwhile, staff at some hospitals have been warned not to talk to the media or comment on social media while Lunchtime Live highlights the claims.
Last week, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said the workplace culture in the HSE “has to change” and urged any health workers who are experiencing bullying to “contact your union”.
The HSE has been contacted for comment and invited to come on the show to discuss the claims.
You can listen back to just some of the HSE bullying reports aired on Lunchtime Live here:
Additional reporting from Aoife Kearns at Government Buildings.