Coffs Harbour Health Campus.
Coffs Harbour Health Campus.

Leaked report tells of bullying, harassment and low morale

A DOCUMENT obtained by the Coffs Coast Advocate has revealed staff morale at our public hospitals is at a concerning low - with bullying and harassment all too common.

The review, conducted by M Reid & Associates, looked specifically at the Coffs Clinical Network (CCN).

The Mid North Coast Local Health District is divided into two health Networks: the Coffs Clinical Network (CCN) and the Hastings Macleay Clinical Network.

The CCN includes the Coffs Harbour Health Campus as the major non-metropolitan referral hospital, networked with Macksville and Bellingen Hospitals, and Dorrigo Multi-Purpose Service, and a network of community health services.

One of the main factors relevant to the review was the 'concerningly poor' results of a 2019 People Matter Survey.

The results show a number of indicators of poor culture among CCN staff, including unsatisfactory levels of bullying and harassment, poor communication and low expectations of improvement.

As part of the review, over seventy staff were interviewed and a number of submissions made.

Staff felt management was more reactive than proactive and not focused on a clear goal.

This focus on day-to-day reactive management was seen as hierarchical, "old school" and outdated.

Coffs Harbour Health Campus.
Coffs Harbour Health Campus.

Most people interviewed in the review thought the People Matter results were an adequate reflection of culture and that the values espoused by NSW Health for all Local Health Districts - those of collaboration, openness, respect and empowerment - were lacking.

The review found that as CHHC continues to evolve into a significant non-metropolitan referral hospital, it is increasingly evident that the CCN organisation structure needs reappraisal.

Attracting a Director of Medical Services (previously known as the Director of Clinical Services) has proved particularly difficult with the review authors noting there's been approximately 24 people appointed to or acting in this position over the past eight years.

To assist making the position more attractive to a permanent appointment, the creation of a Deputy DMS position has been suggested.

Tensions between the major Coffs Harbour campus and the smaller sites of Bellingen, Macksville and Dorrigo were also noted.

These tensions concerned patient flows to and from the hospital sites, a need for clinical support to the smaller sites and administrative back up.

The review outlined a number of other recommendations including that the incoming Director of Nursing should investigate and, if necessary, act on any outstanding claims of inappropriate nursing staff workplace behaviour.

A concept drawing of how the Coffs Harbour Health Campus upgrade will look when complete.
A concept drawing of how the Coffs Harbour Health Campus upgrade will look when complete.

Major capital redevelopments at both Macksville Hospital and CHHC are well underway with Macksville completed earlier in the year and Coffs Harbour in April 2021.

But the review found a 'surprisingly widespread commentary across both clinical and administrative personnel of the lack of a clearly articulated vision for the CCN.'

Not surprisingly the formulation of a clearer vision was one of the major recommendations from the report.

Among other things it was suggested the vision should: recognise and accommodate emerging priorities such as aged care, mental health and a more proportionate balance between acute care and community/out of hospital care; is customer centric; is more comprehensive than capital construction; and focuses on continuous quality improvement.

More details to come:

Coffs Coast Advocate will contact the Local Health District for a response and to see what recommendations will be implemented.