Report: "Culture of fear" at Utrecht hospital endangers patients

A "culture of fear" in the ear nose and throat department of the University Medical Center in Utrecht, has led to "avoidable" and"serious, deadly complications" that endangers the safety of patients.

This is according to a report that three doctors in the department sent to the Health Inspectorate last year, RTL reports.

Some of the main points in the doctors' letter to the Inspectorate includes that the department focuses on turnover, not quality of care. Staff and assistants are pitted against each other. Periodically someone is made a scapegoat and that person is kept in social isolation and gets assigned the tiresome jobs. Comments are usually made in a derogatory and offensive manner. There is an unsafe learning environment in the department. Doctors do not dare to report mistakes because they are afraid of punishment. And surgeons have to work under great time and performance pressure.

According to the doctors, the culture of fear in the department is the result of the department head's authoritarian leadership style. One of the doctors describes him as a "erratic tyrant".

Current affairs program Zembla will be paying attention to this case on Wednesday, according to RTL. The program will look at a total of six suspicious surgery reports, including one case in which a patient's carotid artery was accidentally cut during a surgery. The patient died a day later.

UMC Utrecht denies the problems and as the doctors named no concrete cases in their report, the Health Inspectorate closed the investigation. A follow-up investigation has now been launched, according to RTL. The Federation of Medical Specialists and the Dutch Society of Ear, Nose and Throat Surgery are also investigating.

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