TOUGH TIMES: An Ipswich nurse has exposed issues between staff, alleging a culture of extreme bullying and intimidation within the mental health unit at Ipswich Hospital.
TOUGH TIMES: An Ipswich nurse has exposed issues between staff, alleging a culture of extreme bullying and intimidation within the mental health unit at Ipswich Hospital. mactrunk

Suffering in silence: Nurse labels Ipswich workplace 'toxic'

A DESPERATE and terrified nurse has spoken out to expose a culture of bullying and harassment within the mental health unit at Ipswich Hospital.

The whistleblower, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, says bullying, intimidation, and threats between staff are rife, along with rude and at times abusive treatment of patients by nurses.

The QT has seen internal emails from West Moreton Hospital and Health Service which show management has been aware of significant issues within the mental health unit for at least 14 months.

West Moreton has confirmed that five formal complaints alleging bullying and harassment regarding the Adult Mental Health Unit have been lodged since September.

Four have been finalised and one is in the process of being finalised, the health service says.

The service also says it has taken steps to address problems, highlighted by other medical staff within the hospital, including working with staff and promoting staff development.

In a recent document - seen by the QT- addressed to the Queensland Nurses Union, a senior West Moreton staff member acknowledged there were broader issues within the unit, which were being worked through.

The whistleblower said they were not aware of attempts to improve the culture and if action was taken, it had failed.

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The nurse described an escalating "toxic work environment" where many staff were "suffering in silence" through extreme bullying including name calling and abusive language.

Those claims have been supported by second mental health nurse who works outside the Adult Mental Health Unit.

Three other non-nursing West Moreton staff members supported claims of bullying and intimidation tactics.

Do you know more about this story? Email helen.spelitis@qt.com.au

None of these were willing to be named, for fear of reprisal.

"I've been bullied and harassed to the extreme," the whistleblower said.

"I feel like I've lost the plot and it has made me want to leave the profession."

The whistleblower said staffed were falsely being accused of wrongdoing.

"There have been many complaints to HR, and the union, but no one is listening and the torture continues," they said.

Negative feedback from other staff within the hospital regarding the mental health unit prompted one manager to formally raise the issues in March 2016, before the latest bullying complaints were lodged.

An email with the subject Culture: Change required was sent to staff at the Mental Health Unit and called for the staff to generate ideas on how to resolve the problems including staff interactions with each other.

"Unfortunately I have received feedback from various sources... that MHU staff are often very abrupt and at times very rude with regard to their interactions with staff, patients and visitors," the email reads.

"Senior Medical staff have also provided feedback that when they have asked a nurse for input regarding a patient that they respond in a very disinterested way and most nurses do not seem willing to actively engage."

The Queensland Nurses Union and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - the organisation responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct by medical practitioners - declined to comment, citing privacy.

West Moreton said it treats such allegations of bullying and harassment seriously and dedicated HR staff have been assigned to support the management of HR issues in the unit, including employee complaints, and a tailored plan to improve the unit along with behaviour awareness sessions to give staff the confidence to know what behaviour to expect from workmates and colleagues.

"We are working with staff to improve the workplace culture and the working environment in the Adult Mental Health Unit," a spokesperson said.

"This includes improving the physical workplace for staff and consumers, encouraging staff engagement and promoting staff development.

"Consultation with union partners is a critical part of the roll out of this program. WMHHS Executive Director Nursing and Midwifery and Executive Director Mental Health and Specialised Services, will now work directly with managers, staff and union partners to finalise this program, embed it into the unit's business as usual, and resolve any remaining issues."



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