The Prince Charles Hospital is part of the Metro North Hospital and Health Service, which is being investigated in relation to bullying claims.
The Prince Charles Hospital is part of the Metro North Hospital and Health Service, which is being investigated in relation to bullying claims.

Health district grilled over ‘bully boss’ claims

Queensland's biggest hospital district is facing a top-level review into its handling of wide-ranging bullying claims against a senior manager who allegedly nicknamed one subordinate "vinegar tits".

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland in August began assessing bullying claims by one of a group of women about the senior manager at Metro North Hospital and Health Service, which covers Kilcoy, Caboolture, Redcliffe, Prince Charles and Royal Brisbane and Women's hospitals.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has launched an investigation into the handling of bullying claims at Metro North Hospital and Health Service, which includes the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has launched an investigation into the handling of bullying claims at Metro North Hospital and Health Service, which includes the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.

It will examine whether Metro North had adequate systems to manage workplace bullying risks and was instigated after issues were brought to the attention of Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace, whose chief-of-staff asked the Office of Industrial Relations to contact one of the bullying complainants.

But Metro North, which launched an internal investigation into the claims about four months ago, had refused to release documents requested by WHSQ as of mid-October, potentially delaying an examination of any possible systemic issues.

It is understood WHSQ inspectors have been denied information about the bullying complaints, with Metro North indicating they will refuse to voluntarily release documents for fear of prejudicing its four-month internal probe into the claims by its Integrity Unit.

Sources close to the investigation have told the newspaper of frustrations by the complainants about the slow pace of Metro North's internal investigation, despite having provided statements and interviews months ago.

As previously revealed, allegations about the senior manager had first been flagged with a senior Metro North executive more than a year before the formal internal investigation was launched.

"It's appalling, woefully inadequate," one former employee said of the hospital district's handling of the claims.

"The response from beginning to end says one thing to me: that they have always and will always protect the reputation of the organisation first.."

"(They) make it so difficult for complainants that they give up and go away."

Metro North in July refused to comment on when it first became aware of the claims, but said it took "allegations of this nature extremely seriously."

The male Metro North manager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has been on suspension since early August pending the internal investigation outcome.

Complainants allege they worked in a climate of fear, were belittled and berated at meetings, accused of "conspiring" if seen talking or socialising, chastised for raising issues and forbidden from approaching hospital hierarchy without permission.

Some women claim they were given offensive nicknames, such as "Vinegar Tits". Complainants allege he also played a game referred to as "root or boot" while on walks with female team members outside the office.

A Workplace Health and Safety Queensland spokesman yesterday said it was "currently looking into this complaint and as such cannot make any comment on it at this time."

"Anyone who owns or operates a workplace must ensure the health and safety of everyone at that workplace," he said. "This includes people's mental health. As with any concern brought to our attention, complaints about bullying are assessed and investigated when appropriate. If work health and safety legal obligations are not being met, enforcement action may be taken, up to and including legal proceedings."

Metro North HHS refused to comment for privacy and confidentiality reasons.

Originally published as Health district grilled over 'vinegar tits, bully boss' claims


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