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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 13 Hansard (Wednesday, 28 November 2018) . . Page.. 4921 ..


country, but this is no excuse for Minister Fitzharris to do nothing. What she is currently doing is next to nothing.

The recent MJA survey showed that between a quarter and a half of doctors and nurses in Australia have been bullied or discriminated against at work, or sexually harassed. Workplace bullying in hospitals has been shown to cause depression, anxiety and fatigue and, in the worst and extreme cases, suicide amongst health workers. These symptoms, together with the stress and low levels of satisfaction at work, lead to higher staff absenteeism, which in turn leads to the remaining staff being put under increased pressure.

In the ACT hospital system, for instance, we have seen high levels of unplanned leave in the radiology department, leading to Canberra Health Services having to outsource medical imaging, with costs approaching $1 million a year. We have seen in the mental health, justice health and drug and alcohol services 122 incidents of mental stress reported between April 2017 and March 2018.

In 2015 a staff survey showed that 54 per cent of staff in ACT Health thought that bullying was present in the workforce, and 46 per cent thought that harassment was present in the workforce. And we know, at least anecdotally, that this situation does not seem to have improved under Minister Fitzharris. A forward-thinking minister would see an opportunity to improve culture and therefore reduce the levels of depression, anxiety and fatigue, and the levels of leave. This would both improve the health system and lower costs. But this would be a minister who had leadership skills, and this minister does not.

It would also mean that we would have more staff working in ACT Health and that ACT Health and Canberra Health Services would be more able to attract staff. Instead, we have seen high levels of churn, both in ACT Health and in Canberra Health Services. In August 2018 the Director-General of Health warned the minister that the target of 14,000 elective surgery procedures was at risk due to current staffing shortfalls. This was less than two months after the strategy had been announced in the budget.

If the minister had taken decisive action on staff culture, the current staffing shortfall for medical staff might have been addressed. Doctors and nurses might want to come and work in the ACT if the culture was better.

In 2015 the AMA warned that the Canberra Hospital was at breaking point. The then president of the ACT AMA, Dr Robson, said:

There’s a very rapidly closing window of opportunity … The current facilities are only just holding and if you delay this sort of infrastructure any longer it may well mean the wheels will come off the cart and the hospital won’t cope …

Move on three years, Madam Speaker, and the wheels are coming off the cart at this moment, and not only in the older buildings. The bill to rectify maintenance issues identified in the AECOM report and funded under UMAHA is in excess of $40 million, which includes fixing the helipad. The Canberra Times reported on


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