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Blowing the whistle: Perceptions of surgical staff and medical students in a public South African hospital

Ter-Er Kusu-Orkar, Alexander L Symonds, Harry C Bickerstaffe, Nikki Allorto, Stuart Oultram

DOI: 10.20529/IJME.2018.071


Understanding perspectives on whistleblowing is important in tackling a resistance to speaking out. This study aimed to elicit the views of medical students and doctors in Edendale Hospital, South Africa using a mixed-methods questionnaire study incorporating free text and tick-box answers. Thematic analysis and descriptive statistics were used to interpret the results. Fifty-eight doctors and medical students responded (87% response rate); the majority were surgeons at Edendale hospital. Seventeen percent did not understand the concept of whistleblowing, while 42% felt unable to report an adverse event. Motivation for reporting adverse events was overwhelmingly in the interests of patient safety (91%), but reluctance was mainly due to the potential consequences on workplace relationships (24%). The most common innovation suggested was a reporting structure (54%). These observations indicate workplace relationships are an important barrier to whistleblowing. Further research should expand on these concerns and explore staff knowledge about whistleblowing.

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