SafeWork issues penalty notices to Cumberland Hospital

3 minute read

A civil case against Western Sydney LHD is on the cards over allegations of bullying and “unreasonable” workloads.

Public psychiatric facility Cumberland Hospital has been issued a series of penalty notices from workplace safety regulator SafeWork NSW following claims from former and current staff of an “extremely toxic culture” and “stifling, anxiety-provoking” management.

The matter is currently before the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, prompting Health Services Union secretary Gerard Hayes to call on the NSW government to conduct an independent review of Western Sydney LHD.

“A highly concerning pattern has emerged at Western Sydney Local Health District. At a minimum NSW Health needs to appoint an independent expert to examine the safety of Cumberland Hospital for workers and assess its overall culture,” Mr Hayes said.

According to penalty notices issued against Western Sydney LHD by SafeWork NSW in September, the district “failed to manage the impact of work-related psychosocial stressors” on staff at Cumberland Hospital at Westmead despite receiving multiple warnings that staff were “distressed”.

Recent complaints from Cumberland Hospital staff also allege that the hospital’s “extremely toxic culture” has cascaded into patient care, according to documents obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald.

In 2022, five allied health workers resigned from Cumberland Hospital after compiling a list of 70 “grievance and bullying issues” and raising concerns with WSLHD about staff burnout due to excessive caseloads.

Cumberland Hospital allegations escalate as LHD stays silent

An investigation into Western Sydney LHD’s handling of the complaints by SafeWork NSW revealed that the district did not properly investigate the claims and “failed to adequately assess or eliminate” the concerns raised by former staff, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

According to the regulator, the district neglected to interview all of the staff members behind the complaints and had dismissed the complaints out of hand without a clear rationale for doing so.

Western Sydney LHD is also the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation into the deaths of two nurses employed at an acute mental health ward at Cumberland Hospital.

The district is alleged to have failed in its duty of care to the two women, who died within weeks of each other shortly after being suspended from their work, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

Health Services Daily contacted Western Sydney LHD for comment and received this response:

“Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) takes all complaints seriously however we cannot comment on open Safe Work matters.”

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