Identifying and eliminating unacceptable behaviour in the medical profession

31 Jul 2015

AMA Submission to the Expert Advisory Group (EAG) on Discrimination, Bullying, and Harassment

The AMA has made an extensive submission to the Expert Advisory Group (EAG) on Discrimination, Bullying and Harassment, which was established in April this year by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) to deal with concerns of unacceptable behaviour in the health sector.

AMA President, Professor Brian Owler, said today that the College of Surgeons had made a strong stand on behalf of the medical profession in establishing the EAG, and its actions have the total support of the AMA.

“We hope that the recommendations in our submission will provide the whole profession with a valuable contribution to producing a road map to stamp out any type of unacceptable behaviour towards health professionals,” Professor Owler said.

“Unfortunately, discrimination, bullying, and harassment are not problems isolated to one part of the medical profession.

“Addressing these issues comprehensively requires a whole of profession approach, including strong collaboration between employers, unions, and professional bodies.

“We know that discrimination, bullying, and harassment are prevalent across the whole of society, not just in the medical profession and the health sector, but we feel the need to set an example.

“Given recent public exposure of disturbing incidents involving doctors, it is important and appropriate that the medical profession has acknowledged the seriousness of the problem and is now playing a leading role to find a lasting solution.

“We want to set a high benchmark for others to follow.”

Professor Owler said the AMA submission offers a number of possible explanations as to why discrimination, bullying, and harassment are a problem in the profession of surgery, but the AMA does not accept that these should be seen as excuses for unacceptable standards of behaviour.

“There is no one solution that will fix these issues,” Professor Owler said.

“We need to target areas such as the working environment, training and education, mentoring and role models, the elevation of more to women leadership roles, policies, complaints processes, and reporting.

“And we need to create an environment where people should not be afraid to come forward with complaints.

“People need a safe place to discuss their issues without being worried about possible reprisals.

“Perpetrators will also need to understand that proven unacceptable behaviour will have consequences.

“There is currently a perception that making a complaint can have great consequences for a complainant’s career, and that the perpetrator will face little or no penalty. That perception must be abolished.

“The recent allegations have been very painful for the complainants, the perpetrators, and the medical profession, but we are now seeing is a real willingness to tackle these problems and achieve real and positive change within the profession,” Professor Owler said.

The AMA has been consulting and working with a wide range of stakeholders to continue the momentum for change.

Professor Owler recently met with the Chair of the Australian Health Ministers' Advisory Council (AHMAC), which includes representatives of each of the State and Federal Health Departments.

As major employers of doctors across the country, the AHMAC members want to work with the profession to build a culture that does not accept bullying or harassment in any form in the medical profession.

The AMA submission to the EAG is available at:


31 July 2015

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