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3:29pm 19/08/2022
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Stop whitewashing hospital bullying culture
By:Sin Chew Daily

Now that the report is released, it’s time for the ministry to roll up its sleeves and get into some serious work to rid our hospitals of the fear and bullying cultures.

In April this year, an intern at Penang Hospital, believed to be a victim of bullying, jumped to his death. The sad incident has triggered tremendous outcry in the society.

Meanwhile, some other victims of hospital bullying have also stood up and shared their experiences to disclose the ugly face of bullying culture in the country’s medical fraternity.

The reality is, this issue has been around for many years but has largely escaped public attention until recently.

If we allow such an “increasingly normalized” practice to persist in our society, more interns will eventually become victimized.

It is commendable that the health ministry has set up a special task force to rectify such an aberrant workplace culture. Through the Healthcare Work Culture Improvement Task Force (HWCITF) report, the ministry could get a clearer picture of this whole problem and adopt the proposals to improve the work environment for our medical professionals.

Prior to this, we have seen some people denying the existence of bullying culture at our hospitals, claiming that those were just punishments for errant interns not amounting to “workplace bullying.”

The HWCITF report nevertheless confirmed that indeed overwork, bullying and other unhealthy practices did exist in the country’s healthcare industry. The report also pointed out that 67,609 respondents (61.23%) expressed a positive work culture sentiment, 19,582 (17.74%) negative and the remaining 23,220 (21.03%) neutral.

In short, bullying culture very much exists in this country, not just because the victims crack under pressure and take a stringent “punishment” as an act of “bullying.”

The prerequisite for problem-solving lies with the attitude of recognizing the existence of the problem itself. Sweeping the problem under the rug will not help solve the problem but will only embolden the bullies further.

Following the release of the HWCITF report, the healthcare workplace bullying culture is now open and aboveboard. What should come next is for the relevant authorities to take stern actions and make amends. No one should give any more excuses for acts of bullying!

True, resident doctors do need some kind of “training” to perfect their skills and professionalism, and they indeed must learn to work under stress. However, that does not mean they must submissively swallow all kinds of unreasonable treatments and bullying!

We mustn’t think that a well-educated young doctor cannot tell the difference between bullying and training!

We have to reiterate the need to recognize the existence of bullying and get ourselves completely clear about the demarcation between bullying and training. It is exactly such failure or rather reluctance in the healthcare industry to see the distinction that we have been unable to implement the necessary medical reforms successfully.

The HWCITF has made a ten-pronged proposal to the health ministry to improve the country’s healthcare services, including reassessment of the ministry’s existing visions, missions and core values; digitalization of workflow and integration of existing digital systems; enhancement of internship standards; standardization of mind transformation programs at hospitals as well as on-job training; and the establishment of an intern support squad, among other things.

Reassuringly, health minister Khairy Jamaluddin has said he would adopt the proposals of the task force to carry out cultural and organizational reforms in his ministry.

We believe that once the proposals have been appropriately executed, they should breathe a new lease of life into our healthcare system in creating a healthy work environment for our healthcare personnel.

Now that the report is released, it’s time for the ministry to roll up its sleeves and get into some serious work to rid our hospitals of the fear and bullying cultures.

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