RACS establishes expert advisory group to combat bullying and harassment

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12 March 2015

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) has moved swiftly to establish an expert advisory group to deal with concerns of bullying, harassment and discrimination in the health sector.

RACS President Michael Grigg said there was no denying that bullying and harassment occurred within the health workforce and the College of Surgeons had zero tolerance for this behaviour.

"The expert advisory group's charter will include reviewing the College's current policies and procedures, establishing a reporting framework to measure progress in dealing with bullying and harassment, addressing the College's gender balance and acting as a medium between the College and the hospitals/health departments to provide a way forward to eliminating bullying and harassment," Prof Grigg said.

Professor Grigg said that the new group would be chaired by former Victorian Health Minister and current Chair of the Royal Children's Hospital, the Hon Rob Knowles AO.

"Dr Helen Szoke, the current CEO of Oxfam, but previously Australia's Federal Race Discrimination Commissioner following seven years as the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner, has agreed to be Deputy Chair," the RACS President said.

Dr Joanna Flynn AM, Chair of the Medical Board of Australia and Mr Ken Lay APM, former Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police have also agreed to act on the group as have Mr Graeme Campbell, the College's incoming Vice President and Dr Cathy Ferguson, the incoming Chair of the College's Professional Standards.

"This group will comprise of individuals with substantial experience in equal opportunity, racial discrimination and regulatory issues," Prof Grigg said.

"Bullying and harassment must be notified and must be investigated. This is fundamental to correcting behaviour and ensuring inappropriate decisions or actions are addressed.

Professor Grigg said that the issue of harassment and bullying was much bigger than any one hospital and the College had already written to all Ministers of Health across Australia and New Zealand seeking to engage positively with them to improve the culture of hospitals and the health care sector.

The College recognises there are problems but is determined to be part of the solution.

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