Staff in HSE mental health and social care facilities in Cork and Kerry reported more than 110 incidents of workplace bullying and harassment during a 16-month timeframe, at a rate of almost two incidents per week.
Internal documents released to the Evening Echo under the Freedom of Information Act show the HSE recorded 112 incidents of workplace bullying, verbal harassment, physical harassment and sexual harassment at community healthcare organisations (CHOs) in Cork and Kerry between January 2016 and April this year.
In total, 46 incidents of verbal harassment were recorded; 28 incidents of bullying; 21 incidents of sexual harassment and 17 incidents of physical harassment.
The rate of physical and sexual harassment reported in Cork and Kerry is “genuinely shocking” according to IMPACT trade union spokesperson Niall Shanahan.
“The rate of workplace bullying and harassment, as recorded here, is unacceptably high,” Mr Shanahan said.
“The reported rate of physical and sexual harassment in Cork and Kerry is genuinely shocking, accounting as it does for such a high proportion of the national figure.” The IMPACT trade union represents workers in the HSE, hospitals, mental health facilities and community services.
“While the union would be made aware of these types of cases, it would only be in the context of dealing with union members who’ve been affected by these types of incidents,” Mr Shanahan added.
“IMPACT’s objective in all cases is to ensure that workplaces are managed in a way to ensure the safety and dignity of all staff,” he said, adding that IMPACT works with management to ensure that this is the case.
The documents also show that there was 35 incidents of workplace bullying reported by staff in the South/South West Hospital Group during the same timeframe.
This hospital group includes Cork University Hospital (CUH), Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH), Mercy University Hospital (MUH), Bantry General Hospital (BGH) and Mallow General Hospital (MGH) as well as others.
The HSE defines workplace bullying as “regular and persistent inappropriate behaviour, specifically targeted at one employee or a group of employees.”
Examples of workplace bullying include constant humiliation, ridicule, belittling, verbal abuse, the spreading of malicious rumours, hostility, reducing a job to routine tasks below the person’s skills without explanation and constantly picking on someone.
The HSE defines harassment (other than sexual harassment) as any form of unwanted conduct relating to gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation,religion, age, disability, race and membership of the Traveller community.
The HSE defines sexual harassment as “any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person.” Nationally, staff in HSE mental health and social care facilities took the brunt of workplace bullying, with 601 incidents of harassment reported by staff in 16 months.
On average, more than 9 incidents of bullying, verbal harassment, sexual harassment or physical harassment were reported weekly by staff members in the HSE mental health or social care division between January 2016 and April this year.
In comparison, the HSE recorded 647 incidents of workplace bullying across all HSE-run acute hospitals between January 2010 and April this year.
In a statement the HSE said it takes work-related aggression and violence very seriously, adding that an employee well-being process including occupational health service and stress management is available to all staff.
“Ensuring the safety of employees and service users is a priority concern for the HSE.”