Head of Canberra Hospital Obstetrics & Gynaecology leaves behind Workplace Bullying environment for new job interstate
Katy Gallagher was on the beast this morning saying Dr Sneddon was just taking a long break and there’s no problem. But can we believe anything she says now?
The unit has been the subject of two external reviews after allegations of workplace bullying and harassment were made and several staff resigned.
The first review examined maternity services across the ACT and found Canberra Hospital staff had unsustainable workloads and some were victims of inappropriate behaviour.
The second inquiry specifically focussed on the bullying and harassment allegations but the findings are being kept confidential.
Health Minister Katy Gallagher says Dr Anne Sneddon is taking 12 months leave to pursue other career options.
She says it has been a turbulent 12 months at the unit.
"I really can't answer why Dr Sneddon has chosen now other than to say I think for everyone who has worked in the unit it has been a difficult 12 months," she said.
"We are on the road to making some major improvements, but Dr Sneddon has chosen to pursue some other opportunities elsewhere for a period of time."
Ms Gallagher says she hopes Dr Sneddon eventually returns to ACT Health.
"She is a very significant obstetrician and gynaecologist, nationally renowned. She does a lot of work in the third world, training and teaching midwives how to deliver babies," she said.
"She is an amazing doctor and I hope she comes back."
The ACT Opposition has renewed calls for the findings of the confidential review to be released.
Health spokesman Jeremy Hanson says there needs to be an open inquiry into the how the unit operates.
"This is nothing to do with a particular resignation. What I'm concerned about is the systemic issues, what actually occurred, why the complaints that were made were ignored, and has this been dealt with satisfactorily," he said.
THE BACKGROUND TO THE CANBERRA HOSPITAL WORKPLACE BULLYING
The maternity unit at the Canberra Hospital could be on the verge of a staffing crisis, with nine doctors resigned in the past 12 months.
Six obstetricians have blamed a hostile working environment, with some complaining of bullying at management level, according to an industry representative.
Four junior doctors have also terminated their training at the hospital early over the past year, with more departures on the horizon.
The ACT representative for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Andrew Foote, said the doctors had approached him with concerns about the workplace culture and perceived bullying. He said some had complained of having difficulty getting days off work, while others had been humiliated by the way problems with patient management had been dealt with.
Dr Foote said at least one doctor had reported she had made a formal complaint to senior management and had been dissuaded from taking the matter further.
''The concern at a college level is that these are senior doctors at the highest level who have left the system,'' Dr Foote said.
''[One of the doctors] didn't leave town, which I think is particularly damning he just moved to the northside.''
Six doctors had also written to ACT Health Minister Katy Gallagher, offering to apply for two vacancies only if the workplace environment could be improved.
Dr Foote said there was now a shortage of obstetricians, with only half the number needed to properly treat the number of patients going through the system.
''I think they [the hospital] are adopting the approach of 'There's nothing wrong, mate'.''
The ACT Opposition says the government is acting cowardly by refusing to release a report into claims of bullying at Canberra Hospital.Nine obstetricians have resigned from the hospital since the the start of last year, amid allegations of doctor shortages, harassment and bullying.
ACT Health says it has finished its inquiry, but is bound by the Public Interest Disclosure Act not to release the findings.
MALPRACTICE COVER UP? Problems at Canberra Hospital denied
The ACT government has defended an exodus of obstetricians from Canberra Hospital amid claims of a senior doctor shortage and workplace bullying.
The hospital has lost nine obstetricians over the past 13 months and has been rocked by allegations senior staff pushed for a late-term abortion for a baby later born healthy, the ABC reports.
The Royal College of Obstetricians says doctors have reported a culture of poor management and bullying as well as lack of senior medical staff at the hospital.
They'd since "voted with their feet", the college's Andrew Foote said.
The hospital and ACT Health have also been accused of trying to hide medical blunders. The most explosive claims centres around the case of an expecting mother in 2008. Just five weeks into her pregnancy, Fiona Vanderhook was told by a trainee doctor that she had lost her baby and should terminate using a drug called misoprostol.
Ms Vanderhook took misoprostol but it failed and later tests showed the baby was still alive, the ABC reported. Scans then revealed the foetus had developed fluid on the brain — most likely caused by Ms Vanderhook taking the termination drug.
Later six separate specialists told Ms Vanderhook her baby appeared to be developing normally and had every chance of being born healthy. But senior staff at Canberra Hospital continued to push for the baby to be terminated, even as late as 31 weeks into the pregnancy.