10 Sep 2015

Half of surgeons experience bullying, harassment

3:04 pm on 10 September 2015

An investigation has revealed almost half of all surgeons in New Zealand and Australia say they have experienced discrimination, bullying or sexual harassment.

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons is apologising to those who have been victims of bullying, and says a culture change is needed.

The college has accepted the findings of an inquiry which found that half of all surgeons in Australia and New Zealand have been subjected to discrimination, bullying or sexual harassment and that most of the cases were not dealt with appropriately.

The independent report includes stories of surgeons being expected to provide sexual favours in return for tutorship, with other surgeons suffering constant intimidation and public humiliation.

Senior surgeons and surgical consultants are reported to be the main source of the problems.

The college said it needed to make it safe for people to complain and end bystander silence, and improve surgical education and training - and it would publish an action plan to achieve these goals by the end of November.

Resident Doctors' Association national secretary Deborah Powell said the problems in New Zealand were the same as in Australia, but they were now being addressed.

The report also found that complaining about harassment was considered "career suicide" and hospital managers were scared to upset senior surgeons.

The association, which represents junior doctors in this country, said one in five of its members had experienced or witnessed bullying, sexual harassment or inappropriate behaviour in the past two years.

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