A new study has found that discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment is common in the medical work environment, with surgeons being named the main perpetrators.
The Expert Advisory Group (EAG), appointed by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS), has released its preliminary research into the prevalence of sexual harassment in medical work environments, finding that surgeons have been commonly identified as the perpetrators and female staff, trainees and students most likely the victims.
RACS vice president and EAG member Graeme Campbell told ABC News, “The existing complaints processes haven’t proved to be adequate.”
“We’re going to have to create an open communication framework where any bullying or harassment is reported and any complaint is acted upon freely.”
“The solution is going to have to address culture. It’s going to have to address culture in organisations, culture within surgery.”
The group is now reaching out for submissions on an Issues Paper, to determine whether their research accurately reflects what’s going on in the industry.
Their research comes after senior vascular surgeon Dr Gabrielle McMullin fuelled international debate when she said complaining about sexual harassment could ruin a trainee’s career.
Dr McMullin said sexual harassment was an easier path than pursuing the perpetrators, because of sexism among many male surgeons.
“What I tell my trainees is that, if you are approached for sex, probably the safest thing to do in terms of your career is to comply with the request,” she told ABC News.
In the days following her comments a string of other female doctors also spoke out about the culture of abuse in medical workplaces.
RACS women in surgery chair Ruth Bollard said the group was surprised at the extent of the problems.
EAG will soon release separate results of an anonymous survey of victims as part of their research.