Riverdale Hospital: The Whistleblower in Pursuit of the Missing Money
(8 pages of text)
Case (Gen Exp)
A doctor in the Department of Pediatrics at Riverdale Hospital, an Australian hospital affiliated with the faculty of medicine at a leading nearby university, reported directly to the chair of the department. The doctor received funding for his research in the amount of $380,000 per year, but because he was not a tenured faculty member, he was not able to directly control the contributions. Instead, the fund was administered by the department chair, under the doctor’s supervision. While checking the accounting of the fund in December 2010, the doctor discovered an irregularity that made him doubt the chair’s administration of the donations. As more clues and irregularities emerged, the doctor became convinced that the fund was being mismanaged and that this mismanagement was being covered up. When he eventually confronted the chair, he found himself in a stressful and difficult situation, with little support. In 2018, the dean of medicine circulated an external audit that claimed there had been no wrongdoing, and the doctor found himself facing a much larger, stronger opponent. Should he take action, pursuing civil or criminal charges? Should he leave the institution and take the donations with him? Should he stay where he was and deal with the consequences?
The case is appropriate for undergraduate- or graduate-level courses on leadership and ethics, organizational behaviour, or health management. It also works well in executive education sessions addressing topics such as leading and character, ethics and integrity, voice and doubt, and the logics of decision making. It examines ill-defined ethical areas and the challenges of speaking up when doing so is not immediately beneficial to the speaker. After working through the case and assignment questions, students will have developed their ability to do the following:
- Define the concepts of voice and agency within organizations.
- Explain how issues such as power and perceived outcomes affect people’s ability to voice preferences and cultivate their own agency.
- Describe three distinct leadership logics and how they influence decisions whether to act or not act.
- Evaluate the opportunities and dangers of whistleblowing, and develop a framework for identifying situations that call for whistle-blowing and for responding to whistleblowers as a manager or colleague.
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