Thursday, November 5, 2015

No Justice For Those Who Have Suffered Bullying, Discrimination and Sexual Harassment with Increased Surgical College Subscription Payments.

As Fellows of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, we pay annual subscriptions.  There is not a whole lot of practical choice but for us to pay these subscriptions if one wishes to be a practicing surgeon in Australia.  It has just been announced that the subscriptions for 2016 are going up and by a lot.  

Whilst the Consumer Price Index is sitting around 1.5%, it has just been announced that it will be going up by 6% to cover the cost of implementing recommendations of the Expert Advisory Group (EAG). 

As a reminder, the EAG had documented the serious extent to which bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment (BDSH) has existed within the male Anglo-Saxon dominated surgical establishment. 

Text from the RACS email advising of the fee increase

This increase represents a gross injustice for those who have suffered from bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment during their formative years in building a career in surgery.  Having been subjected to such treatment, they now must pay more for having had the privilege to have had such an experience.  

Meanwhile, the main perpetrators of such behavior remain unpunished and will not as they should, bear the brunt of the additional costs for the RACS to make good on their past behavior.  

These are fees that I paid in 2015 for the privilege of being a Fellow.
But the reality is that implementing EAG Recommendations is going to be a costly exercise and it is money that cannot be covered from its financial reserves.  Apart from these costs, the RACS remains at significant risk of litigation and financial settlements in the event individuals find the courage to commence legal proceedings.  The RACS doesn’t really have a choice but to fund the implementation of EAG Recommendations through a significant increase in Fellowship subscriptions and to apply this across the board.  

The fact that the RACS is understandably unable to adjust for who should or should not pay a greater or smaller contribution to cover these costs does not change the fact that it lacks justice.  It will undoubtedly leave a bitter taste for many Fellows who will begrudgingly pay their subscriptions for 2016.

I do have one axe to grind over the manner by which this increase is being applied. Rather than a general revenue surcharge buried into our overall subscription, I strongly believe the increase above CPI should be listed as a separate line entry to send a clear message to all Fellows that they are paying for the indiscretions of past and present surgeons engaging in BDSH.  Without this, the reason for the 'bumped up' subscriptions will be quickly forgotten.  The issue of BDSH and it being addressed by the EAG represents a very significant watershed moment in the history of the RACS.  It should not be devalued by being buried into general business.  I appeal to the RACS to make it a separate line entry.  Call it an "EAG Levy" or "EAG contribution" or whatever.

It is just important to make it transparent. Make it visible.  Do not allow it to be forgotten.  

Maybe it is all just about trying to make a good impression – I’m sure you will agree that the RACS needs to do everything it can do to improve the impression it gives to the general public and its Fellows.  It will cost the RACS nothing to implement this. The cost of giving a negative impression......... 

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