'Serious wrongdoing will not get in the way of delivering on the services we need most'
British Columbia is providing better protections to health-care workers in the province through a policy improvement and greater investment.
The provincial government is expanding the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) for people working at health authorities, effective June 1, 2023.
Under B.C.’s PIDA, employers can’t take “any measure that adversely affects the employee's employment or working conditions” – such as a termination or demotion – against an employee who seeks advice about reporting wrongdoing, reports wrongdoing or cooperates with an investigation.
“No one is above the rules. When someone sees something that could seriously undermine confidence in public services, it’s vital they feel they can safely share those concerns without fear of repercussion,” says Niki Sharma, attorney general. “As we bring more employees under the protections of this legislation, British Columbians can be reassured that serious wrongdoing will not get in the way of delivering on the services we need most.”
Specific types of wrongdoing that may be disclosed under PIDA include:
- a serious act or omission that, if proven, would constitute an offence under an enactment of B.C., or Canada
- an act or omission that creates substantial and specific danger to the life, health or safety of persons, or to the environment, other than a danger that is inherent in the performance of an employee’s duties or functions
- a serious misuse of public funds of public assets
- gross or systemic mismanagement
- knowingly directing or counselling a person to commit a wrongdoing above.
PIDA also requires ministries and the ombudsperson to report the number of disclosures they receive and the results of any investigations they undertake each year.
PIDA came into force in 2019. In 2021, B.C. announced it is bringing more public service employees and organizations under the scope of the act.
Better mental health support
The B.C. government is also investing to better support nurse’s mental health.
The province is providing $500,000 to the Nurses and Nurse Practitioners of British Columbia (NNPBC) to expand virtual mental-health services offered through Advica Health – a Canadian-based health navigation company that provides virtual health-care services through nurse navigators, registered mental health providers and medical specialists.
“Nurses and nurse practitioners play an integral role in the delivery of health care. We have heard from them, but more than that, we are listening to what they need to thrive in their chosen profession,” says Adrian Dix, minister of health. “Through this investment, nurses across the province will have access to improved mental-health and cultural-humility supports – an important step in delivering on our promises of strengthening retention of staff and supporting Indigenous cultural safety throughout the B.C. health-care system.”
Under the funding, nurses will have access to a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week secure and confidential hotline connected to registered mental-health clinicians who will provide crisis-support and next-step options. Nurses will also get self-guided support options, skill-based exercises and other programs to help manage mental health.
B.C. is also providing an additional one-time grant of $275,000 to NNPBC to:
- enhance the group’s capacity to support nurses in the delivery of culturally safe care
- meet their responsibilities under the Indigenous Cultural Safety, Humility and Anti-racism Practice Standard
- formalize long-term Indigenous nursing leadership infrastructure to ensure Indigenous nursing voices are heard, especially for health policy, advocacy and system design
NNPBC will partner with the Ministry of Health’s Indigenous Health and Reconciliation branch to:
- reaffirm the relationships between Indigenous nurses and NNPBC and follow through on NNPBC’s commitment to be led by the voices of Indigenous nurses in setting direction for anti-racism work;
- partner and collaborate to develop services that support non-Indigenous nurses in meeting their responsibilities under the Indigenous Cultural Safety, Humility, and Anti-racism Practice Standard; and
- collaborate with Indigenous nursing leaders to create valued spaces for Indigenous nursing leadership to meaningfully advance change in British Columbia.
“NNPBC continues our important work of supporting nurses in British Columbia and we welcome the opportunity to partner with the ministries to support nurses’ mental health as well as nurses’ anti-racism and cultural-humility practices,” said Sherri Kensall, board chair, NNPBC.
“We applaud the investment in Indigenous nursing leadership and recognize that Indigenous nurses continue to lead the way across our province and beyond. Investing in nursing and nursing led solutions is critical in addressing health system challenges. This investment demonstrates a commitment to nursing and ensuring that British Columbians have access to the safe, competent care that is unique to nursing.”
These investments align with B.C.’s Health Human Resources Strategy, which was announced in fall 2022. The strategy focuses on 70 actions to recruit, train and retain health-care workers, while redesigning the health-care system to foster workplace satisfaction and innovation.
Overall, only 38 per cent of HR professionals believe they effectively supported employees with mental health challenges in 2022, according to a previous report.