Nursing unions have warned that the HSE “can’t be trusted” to police bullying in the health service – and are calling for health and safety officers to be drafted in.
This morning, a special Oireachtas Health Committee meeting was held to discuss the health, safety and wellbeing of Ireland’s frontline health workers.
The meeting was called after Lunchtime Live highlighted widespread claims of bullying within the HSE.
Over more than a week in January, the show talked to a host of nurses and frontline workers who said they were bullied by the superiors and were not listened to when they raised the issue with management.
This morning’s Oireachtas meeting heard from unions representing workers right across the health service – with many warning that the HSE is failing in its duty of care to keep staff safe.
INMO Assistant Director of Industrial Relations Albert Murphy told the committee that the HSE can no longer be trusted to address the issue of bullying.
“The HSA (Health and Safety Authority) has to get on the pitch because the HSE can’t be trusted to police this,” he said. “They have a duty of care and they are looking elsewhere.
“It may be a resources issue but they have to be on the pitch.”
The meeting was called by Sinn Féin health spokesperson David Cullinane after he heard the bullying stories highlighted by Lunchtime Live.
“This started with an email that came in to Newstalk from a Kate, which is not her real name,” he said. “She is a nurse who has left the system.
“Since then, the floodgates opened. Newstalk’s Lunchtime Live received dozens if not hundreds of emails and I’ve received many myself.
“That to me is a very serious issue. When you have the highly pressurised environment we have in healthcare and you add bullying and harassment in on top of all the other issues, it is a really, really difficult situation.”
In response, the INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha urged anyone who feels they are being bullied at work to get in contact with their trade union, adding, ‘we’ll make sure that your issue is dealt with properly’.
She said the biggest issue in the sector is that the HSE has a duty of care to keep its staff safe and, “they are not fulfilling their obligations in that regard.”
Meanwhile, SIPTU Health Division Organiser Kevin Figgis said the union has a Workers’ Rights Unit that supports workers right across the entire organisation.
He said the health sector now accounts for 37% of the unit’s workload. for the
The Irish Medical Organisation President Dr Clive Kilgallen warned that bullying is not just an issue facing nurses.
He said a recent IMO survey found that more than a quarter of female members and just over one-fifth of its male members have experienced bullying at work.
He said there must be a “culture shift in the working environment” at the HSE to ensure “everybody feels respected” at work.
Duty of Care
Meanwhile, the Head of the Health and Welfare Division of Fórsa Ashley Connolly said the HSE needs to step up in its duty of care.
She said her union members have experienced ‘unacceptable’ processing times after raising grievances in the workplace.
“That in itself is an additional stress on somebody that is feeling vulnerable in the workplace and fearful of going in at times,” she said.
“It is a cultural problem and it is also led by the stresses within the workplace.”
Throughout the show today, Lunchtime Live has been hearing from more health workers who have been bullied in the workplace as well as politicians and trade union members.
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