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Working Class Whistler  

Working Class Whistler

  key informatioin contained in M

  Diary of a whistle-blower

 

           An introduction to the Queensland                      Health code of secrecy.

 
 

This Website has been created to demonstrate how Queensland Health, a huge organization employing approximately 65,000 people, grants impunity to staff members who abuse their powers of trust in breach of the Organization's Professional Code of Conduct.

 

My name is Pauline Hollywood, a Queensland Health employee of 13 years until two senior staff members challenged the medically prescribed footwear they knew I could not possibly work without.

 

The footwear corrected the severe bilateral foot deformities caused by the rheumatoid arthritis diagnosed 31 years earlier at age 17.


Because my footwear contravened the Queensland Health “Standard of Dress” code I believed the staff had good reason to restrict them from the workplace. I was unaware I was being unlawfully discriminated against.


Before my resignation, due to the restriction ultimately placed upon my required footwear, I had happily worked as a nurse for 13 years with Queensland Health.


For more than six years I had worked at the small Sandgate Satellite Dialysis Unit managed by Ms L Clench who, without incident, had allowed the hospital made footwear since first prescribed four years earlier. 


It was during the long service taken to have foot surgery when my position became jeopardized by my doctor's written recommendation for me to reduce my hours.



Ms Clench’s initial response was to persuade Ms K Mason, the Director of Nursing of the Keperra Hospital (the overseer of the Sandgate Unit) to transfer me from Sandgate to Keperra; citing that the doctor’s recommendation was not conducive to the running of Sandgate.


Unable to renegotiate the transfer directly with Ms Mason, whom I had never met, I was subsequently able to have the transfer overturned by submitting a formal grievance to the Director of Nursing at the major Royal Brisbane Hospital.


It was during the grievance procedure where I first met Ms Mason when she, without objection, became aware of the hospital made sandals Ms Clench had allowed in the workplace.

Following the resolution of the grievance in my favour Ms Clench decided to raise her objection to my footwear.


When Ms Mason phoned to say my footwear were inappropriate I again explained how essential they were for me to walk.


Two months later, one month before my leave ended, Ms Mason wrote to advise that following her inquiries with the Department of Workplace Health and safety (WPHS), regarding my footwear requirements due to my disabilities, I was required to make alternative footwear arrangements once I returned.


Ultimately, Ms Mason's failed attempt to negotiate the Department's requirement, if I signed a waiver disclaiming injuries to my feet. led me to resign on the grounds of my inability to return without my required footwear.

It was not until some months after Ms Mason had processed my resignation when the WPHS Department Manager confirmed she had not made the inquiries stated in her letter, and had not received the stated WPHS requirement for me to make alternative footwear arrangements in the workplace.


He confirmed WPHS never issued the directive presented to me in Ms Mason’s letter because it contravened the WPHS Act; confirming Ms Mason had no reason to negotiate a waiver with his Department because, as the sole author of the restriction, she alone had the authority to revoke it.

 

In her letter to me dated 25 May 1998 Ms Mason had falsely claimed:

Ultimately, the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland (ADCQ) found Ms Mason and Ms Clench had unlawfully discriminated against me; naming them as respondents when referring the matter to Queensland Health to investigate.

Things then went from bad to worse; the Queensland Health Administration went to great lengths to prevent the exposure of Ms Mason's false claims to me, and to prevent Ms Clench from explaining her sudden objection to my footwear.

After admitting to the ADCQ Commissioner that, following Ms Clench’s objection to my footwear, she had not made the specific inquiries with the Department of WPHS, as stated in her letter, Ms Mason failed to account for the WPHS advice which she claimed, in that same letter, to have received in response to her specific inquiries regarding my footwear requirements “due to my disabilities”

 Ms Mason's response to the Commissioner:

“…Ms Hollywood was intending to return to work with sandals…She confirmed this and discussed the fact that she had been wearing sandals for a long time due to her disability. I told Ms Hollywood that it was...not acceptable...Over the next few weeks I reviewed the protective footwear...on a casual basis only with...Workplace Health and Safety...I did not refer specifically to the situation with Ms Hollywood’s sandals or her disability...On 25 May…I reiterated that Ms Hollywood needed to have suitable footwear...Ms Hollywood stated...it was not possible to have any other footwear for work...I agreed to contact WPHS again for advice. WPHS was contacted by email on 2 June 1998...I had no response…Ms Hollywood phoned on 22 June 1998 indicating…if she was unable to work with sandals, she would not be able to continue as a nurse…”

 

Also, Ms Mason excluded the fact I withheld my resignation as a last resort upon her suggestion that WPHS might negotiate the restriction if I signed a waiver; disclaiming injuries to my feet:

“I asked her to wait and not resign on the unresolved issue of her footwear. I again emailed the WPHS representative...phone contact was made the next day with another WPHS Officer.”

The Queensland Health District Manager, having claimed to have investigated on behalf of Queensland Health, also excluded Ms Mason’s false claim when confirming she had not made the stated inquiries in May:

 “...the Director of Nursing formally raised Ms Hollywood’s stated footwear needs with the Herston-based Workplace Health and Safety unit in early June...”

The secrecy surrounding Ms Mason’s false claim was maintained by the ADCQ Commissioner when she too suppressed the deception in Ms Mason's letter:

“…I am of the reasonable opinion that Ms Hollywood’s complaint is lacking in substance for the following reasons…it is apparent in Ms Mason’s letter dated 25 May 1998 that she requested for Ms Hollywood to advise her if she was unable to arrange for shoes which comply with the Workplace Health and Safety requirements.”

Freedom of Information later confirmed Ms Mason had retrieved my personnel file without signing as per the Queensland Health policy, and had withheld its content from the investigation; including the correspondence from my doctor which she had receipted.

Since the failure of the Anti-Discrimination Commission to independently investigate the evidence confirming the discrimination, due to the full licence given to Queensland Health by the Queensland Ombudsman and the Crime and Misconduct Commission to self-investigate, it has remained buried for 18 years.

It seemed hardly a coincidence when the Queensland Ombudsman and Crime and Misconduct Commission concurred with the ADCQ’s actions, to authorize Queensland Health to self-investigate and then suppress, by omission, the undeniably deceptive claim in Ms Mason's letter.

A Freedom of Information released “Note to File” confirmed the Crime and Misconduct Commission had fully understood the deception in Ms Mason’s letter.

Further, when unconditionally accepting Queensland Health’s finding that Ms Mason had not told me of her inquiries with WPHS, regarding my footwear requirements due to my disabilities, the Minister for Health permanently sealed the truth regarding Ms Mason’s false claim in her letter which, indeed, stated she had made those specific inquiries.

A definite conflict of interest existed!

In 2014, when I learned of the Public Interest Disclosure (PID) Act for Whistle Blowers, I submitted a PID to the Queensland Deputy Premier:

Unfortunately, even though the PID Act stipulates a PID must be responded to, my PID was ignored.

I have since found there are no avenues for independent and unbiased investigations into bullying within the workplace of Queensland Health and feel that, until bullying is transparently addressed, it will remain a silent problem.

Having exhausted all avenues, including my local MP who refused to follow-up on the PID, I contacted the publisher of a whistle-blowing website who advised I create a website to reveal the  extraordinary protection from accountability which has come to be expected, and enjoyed, by Queensland Health.

This website demonstrates the apathy of the Government towards the standard practice of the independent investigative bodies which, in authorizing Queensland Health to self-investigate, provides the means for Queensland Health to hide the problem of workplace bulling. 

The best I could hope for going public with my story is to prevent it from happening to others, and encourage others who have experienced similar situations to come forward with their stories.

Hopefully it will encourage the Queensland Parliament to debate the conflict of interest created when Queensland Health investigates itself, and lead to a better future where complaints are, independently of Queensland Health, fully and impartially investigated.