The chairman of the Auckland District Health Board has reminded staff to be kind to each other and to report workplace bullying.

In an email late last week, Dr Lester Levy said he wanted to assure employees that the ADHB "places a high priority on health and safety and improving our culture, which includes identifying and eliminating any bullying within Auckland DHB".

"Workplace bullying studies in New Zealand have revealed that bullying is relatively common in certain industry sectors, which healthcare unfortunately is one.

"Other research has demonstrated that New Zealand has very high rates of reported workplace bullying compared to other countries."


Levy's email came after a Herald investigation into claims of bullying at the Auckland City Hospital mortuary.

He said victims could speak to their manager or chief executive Ailsa Claire.

Two weeks ago Claire emailed staff to say that media coverage and direct feedback from employees had led her to reflect that she needed to be clear on her position on "bullying and other unacceptable behaviour in our workplace".

Levy's email reminded staff of a column he wrote in August 2015 about kindness.

"If you are ever unsure how to behave, simply lead with kindness, this will always be appreciated by others," he wrote two years ago.

"I struggle to understand how it would be possible to consistently treat our patients, their families and whanau with compassion if we do not treat each with kindness.

"A lack of kindness in the workplace does affect relationships adversely and results in, at best, indifference and unpleasantness and, at worst, meanness and cruelty.

"It is not too difficult to 'connect the dots' between unkindness and bullying, which often starts in the common practice of constantly criticising others. This frequently spirals to behaviour which intimidates or humiliates others and makes them feel unsafe and vulnerable."


Levy wrote this week that the health board had made "significant progress in this area but there is plenty of work still to be done".

Tomorrow the ADHB launching its new Speak Up campaign, designed with employees, to address harassment, discrimination and bullying. The Herald investigation revealed multiple claims of bullying - and concerns about work practices, including treatment of bodies, at the mortuary.

Government workplace health and safety regulator WorkSafe ordered the ADHB to hand over files relating to a formal complaint from one staff member.

A second staff member, who has since left the job, has lodged a complaint with the Employment Relations Authority.

Both claim they were bullied out of their jobs in the mortuary. The women, from the UK, allege management knew of the bullying, but failed to stop it.

They also made serious complaints about the way the mortuary handled bodies and an alleged lack of respect shown to the dead.


The Herald on Sunday spoke to five other former staff who made strikingly similar claims but did not follow up with formal complaints.

After the Herald reported the allegations, Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said it was an operational mater but he expected health boards to treat such complaints seriously.