An anonymous survey of medical trainees in Tasmania has unearthed accounts of sexual harassment and bullying in what has been described as an “appalling abuse of power”.
The Australian Medical Association, who conducted the survey, said it was prepared to launch legal action against senior doctors accused of bullying and harassing their trainees.
A Four Corners investigation which aired last night detailed allegations of abuse and bullying in some of Australia’s major teaching hospitals.
AMA state president Dr Tim Greenaway said the survey confirmed the problem existed in Tasmania.
“We did an anonymous survey of trainees to see if people were exposed to this sort of behaviour,” he said.
“Whilst the numbers weren’t great, there were individuals who identified behaviour that was intimidatory, bullying and also there were cases they reported of sexual harassment.”
Dr Greenaway said the allegations are confronting and disturbing.
This is an appalling abuse of power for vulnerable trainees who are working long hours and are under stress and are studying for exams.Dr Tim Greenaway, AMA Tasmania
“We will not tolerate any of this type of behaviour,” he said.
“The AMA has already said that we will prosecute cases on behalf of the trainees who do not feel that they are empowered to complain, to object to this sort of behaviour.
“This is an appalling abuse of power for vulnerable trainees who are working long hours and are under stress and are studying for exams to be subjected to this sort of behaviour by supervisors who have their careers basically in the palm of their hands.”
The survey also found some trainees did not report the abuse they suffered because they did not think their claims would be taken seriously.
“They doubted that if they complained about the behaviour that they’d witnessed or experienced that anybody would prosecute their case … and that their careers would suffer,” Dr Greenaway said.
“All we can do is make absolutely certain that hospital administrations in Tasmania know that the AMA will not tolerate this sort of behaviour and will expect that any cases will be investigated fully and the trainee will be supported.”