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Friday, August 19, 2022

Report: 'We’re bullies', about a quarter tells health task force

Close to a quarter of supervisors working in the Health Ministry surveyed admitted that they are bullies, with some confessing to engaging in "severe" bullying.

These were the findings made by the Healthcare Work Culture Improvement Task Force (HWCITF), which was tasked to uncover working conditions of healthcare workers in the ministry following the death of a house officer from Penang Hospital in April.

According to health news website CodeBlue, 4,692 of the 20,663 respondents from the management or supervisory level admitted to engaging in workplace bullying.

Of that 924, or about 20 percent, confessed to having "severely" bullied their subordinates while the majority said the bullying was at a "low" level.

However, the website said, the HWCTIF did not define what constitutes "severe" or "low" level bullying.

The survey also found most of the self-confessed bullies worked in Perak, with 561 respondents there admitting to doing so.

This was followed by Selangor (541 respondents), Pahang (487), Johor (461) and Sabah (422).

However, Pahang had the highest number of severe bullies, with 102 respondents confessing to having done so at the workplace.

Most of the respondents of the online survey conducted from May 27 to June 10 were from Perak, Selangor, Sabah, Pahang and Johor.

Survey done on Google Forms

The survey was conducted via Google Forms which requires users to input their email addresses but HCWTIF assured that their identifying details were removed before the data was sent for analysis.

The survey also found that most who admitted to bullying were women, making up 75 percent of those who confessed to the practice.

It also found that the largest proportion of them come from a cohort who have served in the ministry for 11 to 20 years.

Although a quarter of supervisors surveyed said they had bullied their juniors, only seven percent of all respondents said they felt harassed at the workplace.

In absolute numbers, however, this worked up to 8,172 respondents, made up of house officers and junior medical officers, medical officers and specialists.

But HWCITF did not provide a breakdown of how many were from which category, CodeBlue reported.

Some 40 percent of them said they were bullied and said they experienced "severe" bullying, CodeBlue reported, without a definition of what constitutes "severe bullying".

Of those who said they were severely bullied, only 500 were in the most junior category, with less than two years of service, while another 500 were in their third to the fifth year of service.

The same proportions said they were victims of "low" level bullying.

House officers generally serve for two years and work as junior medical officers for three to five years.

Those who said they were bullied said this involved being made to do work beyond their level of expertise, excessive monitoring by supervisors or having their opinions ignored.

Emotional and physical bullying

They also described harassment-like bullying, having their mistakes repeatedly brought up or having rumours spread about them among co-workers.

The survey also reported physical bullying, including invasion of personal space, being pushed or blocked from walking their path, threatened with getting roughed up or being a target of spontaneous scolding.

CodeBlue, however, found discrepancies in the HWCTIF's numbers, with only 8,172 respondents saying they felt bullied in the workplace, while the infographic showed nearly 30,000 people saying they experienced some type of bullying.

The infographic showed the proportion of respondents who said they have experienced intimidation, isolation, vilification, inflammatory language, harassment, unfair compensation, unfair working hours or unfair workload.

It also did not square with the written text of the HWCTIF report which stated that 13,806 respondents faced unfair workload on a monthly basis (7,058 respondents), weekly (4,469) or daily (1,559) basis, the website reported.

The respondents were also mostly non-doctors, even though the study claimed to target doctors.

Earlier, task force chairperson, former Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry secretary-general Siti Hamisah Tapsir said the probe could not find strong evidence to suggest the Penang Hospital house officer who died was bullied.

It also concluded bullying was not happening across all healthcare facilities and that victims were not just house officers. - Mkini

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