The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) today published a comprehensive external review of workplace culture and committed to action to help build respectful work environments.
An independent Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination (BHD) Advisory Working Group conducted the review and prepared a report to the College. The Working Group’s recommendations were shaped by the experiences, views and insights of members and trainees revealed in an online survey, listening sessions and in written submissions.
RANZCOG is grateful to all members and trainees who made time to share their stories of unacceptable behaviour in workplaces across Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.
Any form of bullying, harassment or discrimination is unacceptable, and poses a risk to employee and patient health and safety,” RANZCOG President Dr Benjamin Bopp said.
“RANZCOG is concerned that so many of our members and trainees have reported gender bias, discrimination, bullying and harassment in the workplace. We regret that this has occurred and are sorry for any adverse impact it may have had on their lives. All our members and trainees deserve to work and train in a safe environment,” Dr Bopp said.
The Working Group’s report, accessible here, makes 24 detailed recommendations and proposes a roadmap to help guide the College’s actions.
The RANZCOG Board has accepted the Working Group’s report in its entirety. In order to do justice to the report, the Board will carefully consider and respond to its recommendations.
“We recognise that cultural change takes time and requires a sustained commitment. RANZCOG is now developing an action plan to guide future work to help hospitals provide safe and respectful workplaces,” Dr Bopp said.
“We are in this for the long haul and look forward to working with our members,trainees and other stakeholders to help reinforce a culture of respect, in which we can all practise safely and provide the best care to our patients,” Dr Bopp said.
“RANZCOG is committed to upholding the highest possible professional standards in obstetrics and gynaecology, and to working with other stakeholders across the health system to address problems that can only be solved through collaboration and a shared commitment to common goals,” Dr Bopp said.
The member and trainee survey found that 62% of respondents answered that they had been subjected to discrimination, bullying, sexual harassment or harassment (DBSH) in the workplace by a professional colleague at any time in their career.
The survey found cohort differences in DBSH prevalence:
- women had significantly higher prevalence ratings for DBSH (70%) than men (47%)
- reports of sexual harassment were almost six times higher for women (19%) than for men (3%)
- O+G trainees were more likely to report bullying and sexual harassment than other membership groups.
The operating theatre was the most common setting where DBSH occurred, followed by hospital wards.
Dr Bopp said: “We thank all of those who participated in the survey and acknowledge everyone who came forward to tell us of their experiences. We also acknowledge the many others who could not or did not participate but who may have experienced misconduct.”
“The telling of their stories cannot have been easy. The College has listened and we accept their calls for change.”
The Working Group’s report found there is a strong appetite for cultural change, acknowledging RANZCOG’s current work and initiatives involving training site accreditation, trainee support, education, complaint handling, equity and diversity, advocacy and wellbeing activities.
“We thank the Working Group and everyone who has come forward to share their experiences as part of its review. The College is determined that by continuing to implement strategies addressing the recommendations, and with the Board’s commitment to safety, respect and inclusiveness, we will make positive change and help strengthen workplace cultures for the long term,” Dr Bopp said.
Dr Bopp said the College recognised that quality health care outcomes are dependent on high functioning teams across hospital settings. “As the Working Group notes, bullying, harassment and discrimination are also patient safety issues. It is vital that we foster respectful O&G work environments so that women, their babies and families receive the best possible care,” he said.
Working Group Chair Jane Bell said: “We note the work that RANZCOG and its committees have already undertaken to tackle DBSH and promote respectful workplaces. There is clear recognition, however, that there is more to do. Our report highlights how RANZCOG can support the creation of respectful and inclusive O&G workplaces.”
The six person Advisory Working Group was chaired by Jane Bell, a leading lawyer and non-executive director, former Chair of Melbourne Health (Royal Melbourne Hospital), current Deputy Chair of Monash Health and member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The Deputy Chair was Dr Helen Szoke, formerly Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner and federal Race Discrimination Commissioner with the Australian Human Rights Commission.
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