Workplace Harassment Continues Unchecked in Portugal's Medical Field

Workplace Harassment Continues Unchecked in Portugal’s Medical Field

Discover the silent suffering and lack of accountability surrounding workplace harassment in Portugal’s medical field. Explore victims’ stories and perspectives from authorities in this eye-opening report.

Coimbra, Portugal – Workplace harassment remains a persistent issue within Portugal’s medical sector, despite its explicit prohibition and legal consequences under Law 73/2017, enacted on August 16, 2017. 

The International Labor Organization categorically rejects this practice, but it thrives among medical professionals. 

Both professional bodies and labor unions acknowledge that it is a “repeated,” “silenced,” and “unpunished” behavior. 

Victims often struggle between enduring the torment, growing accustomed to it, or giving up altogether. 

Fear of retaliation or lacking trust in the available solutions stifles the number of complaints. 

Today, workplace harassment stands as one of the leading causes of burnout, absenteeism, and departures from the National Health Service (SNS). 

This report sheds light on five cases, presents the scarce statistics available, and explores the legal framework and the challenges of providing evidence, particularly when the perpetrators are superiors. 

Finally, in an exclusive interview, the National Health Service’s Executive Director and the Inspector-General of the Authority for Working Conditions (ACT) share their perspectives. 

These stories represent the hopes of those who still believe change is possible.

Maria’s Story: Silent Suffering Amidst Relentless Workplace Harassment

We will refer to her as Maria to protect her identity. Maria is a victim of workplace harassment perpetrated by the department director where she works in Coimbra. 

The ordeal began shortly after the birth of her youngest daughter. 

After enduring the mistreatment for some time, she filed complaints with her labor union, the professional body, the ACT, and the Labor Court. 

However, the presiding judge pressured her to reach a settlement during the initial trial hearing. Reluctantly, Maria accepted the proposed resolution. 

Three years later, she reopens the cases as the harassment persists. 

The hospital administration dismisses her claims, labeling them a labor dispute.

The Alarming Silence: Limited Reporting and Elusive Data

Workplace Harassment
Workplace Harassment

Workplace harassment in the medical field remains largely undocumented due to the scarcity of official statistics. 

The fear of reprisal and a lack of faith in the efficacy of available solutions hinder victims from coming forward.

The culture of silence perpetuates the cycle of abuse, with only a small fraction of victims daring to file formal complaints. 

This lack of reporting undermines the victims’ well-being and obstructs efforts to tackle the pervasive issue of workplace harassment in the medical profession.

Despite the legal framework to address workplace harassment, victims often face significant obstacles when seeking justice. 

Proving their claims can be an uphill battle, especially when the harassers occupy positions of authority.

The burden of proof lies with the victim, making it challenging to substantiate the allegations conclusively. 

The power dynamics inherent in hierarchical structures within healthcare organizations further complicate the legal battle, leaving victims powerless and discouraged.

Voices of Authority: Perspectives from the National Health Service and the ACT

In an exclusive interview, the Director of the National Health Service and the Inspector-General of the ACT shed light on their organizations’ stance regarding workplace harassment. 

The Executive Director of the National Health Service emphasizes the commitment to eradicating this issue, promising stronger measures to support victims and hold perpetrators accountable. 

The Inspector-General of the ACT acknowledges the existence of workplace harassment within the medical field and stresses the need for collaborative efforts between stakeholders to address this grave concern effectively.

Despite the challenges faced by victims like Maria, who continue to suffer silently, there is a glimmer of hope that the medical community and relevant authorities will take decisive action to eradicate workplace harassment. 

Positive change can be achieved by fostering a culture of accountability, providing robust support systems, and encouraging victims to come forward without fear of reprisal. 

The stories shared here serve as a reminder that a future free from workplace harassment is not only desirable but also necessary for the well-being of medical professionals and the quality of healthcare services provided in Portugal.

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