Accounts of chronic bullying and mistreatment of staff at Tauranga Hospital are reportedly being uncovered in an investigation into the suicides of two former nurses.

Since 2013, at least two nurses who felt mistreated at the hospital had taken their own lives, and a third nurse’s suspected suicide was being investigated by the Coroner, RNZ has reported.

The parents of Jeremy Avis, the nurse who took his life on July 26 in 2016, have spoken out about what happened in the lead-up to their son’s death.

Mary Avis recalled her son being hit across the face by a co-worker. She said he complained to the Bay of Plenty District Health Board (DHB), which runs the hospital, and was told his attacker had a medical problem and nothing could be done.

She said another incident was when her son felt punished after foregoing normal protocol to save a man’s life. Mary said her son was put on supervision for six months, during which, his family say, he felt belittled and bullied by management.

“I could see he was losing confidence in himself,” said Mary. “He became distant,” said Jeremy Avis’ father, Jim.

“It’s bullying that erodes people’s confidence. It just does. It kills them, it destroys them,” Mary told RNZ.

The other nurse who killed himself in 2013 left behind a note to his colleagues on the ward where he worked at Tauranga Hospital: “I hope you are all happy now that I’m gone. I look forward to meeting you all again in Hell!”

A number of other staff had since come forward saying they felt bullied, ignored and in some cases had been sacked after speaking out.

Bay of Plenty DHB chief executive Helen Mason told RNZ the suicides were devastating.

She said the DHB found “significant and material differences” in the accounts given by the staff. The DHB had denied accusations that the organisation has a bullying problem.

RNZ revealed between April 2017 and March 2018, the DHB recorded 13 formal bullying complaints: three were unsubstantiated; three were substantiated; and seven are still under investigation.

NB: Nursing Review earlier this year published a professional development article: Do nurses ‘eat their own’? Identifying and managing workplace bullying  which explores the problem of bullying, strategies for its prevention and management, and the obstacles to resolving bullying complaints.

Where to get help:

If you are worried about your or someone else’s mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider.

However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.

Or if you need to talk to someone else:

LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757

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