A nine-month investigation into claims of sexual harassment and bullying among doctors at Waikato Hospital has concluded, with the hospital saying it could not substantiate the complaints.

However, a report into the allegations by a senior female clinician against a senior male clinician found the accused had caused distress described by the complainants, "and this must cease".

A summary of the report also said the man was described as having a "tactile approach to colleagues".

"In addition, comments made on one occasion were neither professional nor in keeping with Waikato District Health Board's expectations of senior staff."


The DHB refused to release the report under the Official Information Act and would not provide details of the complaints.

Instead it released a letter stating that the serious allegations were first raised at a meeting in March last year.

An independent investigator, whose name has been withheld, was appointed to investigate the allegations including:

• Sexual harassment

• Bullying behaviour

• And a breach of Waikato DHB's code of conduct

A DHB spokeswoman would not release details of the nature of the complaint, the clinicians' roles or the department where the alleged incidents occurred but the Herald understands the complaints were made by two women doctors against at least one of their peers.

Waikato DHB director of People and Performance Greg Peploe said the DHB needed to ensure privacy of the complainants and accused, including so that staff felt able to report bullying and harassment in the workplace.

"Disclosure of this information has the potential to identify the affected parties and could adversely impact on the willingness of staff to report these concerns in the future."

The summary letter said confidentiality was offered to all who contributed to the investigation, making it impossible to share the full report.

"It has undoubtedly been an incredibly bruising process for a number of people involved and it will take time and effort for relationships to be repaired."

The investigation ran from April to December last year and cost the DHB $13,925 excluding GST.

The report is now finalised and has been released to those involved, according to the summary letter.

It has also been reviewed and accepted by the DHB. The summary states there was no finding of sexual harassment or of bullying against individuals.

"Outside of these findings important observations were made, from which we can learn, covering the kinds of behaviours we should expect, and nurture, from staff in their interactions with each other; and areas where education on equity and diversity would be useful."

The DHB would now move to support staff by ensuring equity of workload for all senior medical officers, develop and agree a behaviours outline for the department, conduct constructive annual appraisals, and explore ways of supporting new consultants in a more structured and sustainable way.

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Ian Powell said the union was involved with all affected parties in the investigation but that he couldn't comment further.

The ASMS released a report into workplace bullying following a survey of members late last year.

The report found more than a third of senior doctors and dentists had been victim to bullying behaviour ranging from violence to exclusion, leaving some fearful of going to work.

Powell said sexual harassment was a form of bullying.

"There is an increasing awareness, but not sufficiently comprehensive, of actions that might constitute sexual harassment.

"There will be some who are harassing women without actually being aware that they are doing so."