B.C. improving workplace safety for health-care workers

'We made a commitment to hire 320 new relational security officers by fall 2023 to rectify the situation'

B.C. improving workplace safety for health-care workers

British Columbia has delivered on its commitment to make the workplace safer for health-care workers.

The provincial government has fulfilled its commitment to recruit 320 new relational security officers throughout B.C. to better protect health-care workers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing toxic-drug crisis have exacerbated challenges in the health-care system, and compromised the safety of the workplace for some health-care employees and quality care of patients,” says Adrian Dix, minister of health. “That’s why a year ago, we made a commitment to hire 320 new relational security officers by fall 2023 to rectify the situation. 

“Today, I am pleased to report that 320 workers have been hired within the health authorities for all 26 sites that were identified. This commitment will significantly improve the safety of our health-care facilities and help us better retain and recruit health workers, as well as care for our patients.”

There were alarming reports of violence towards frontline workers, especially when the pandemic started.

All protection-services personnel receive training in workplace violence prevention, mental health. They also receive trauma-informed practice training to acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and language to apply a trauma-informed perspective to interactions with patients, families, clients and colleagues.

However, for nurses and health-care assistants (both predominantly female workforces) in B.C., violence was the third-most common cause of time-loss claims between Jan. 1, 2020 and Oct. 16, 2023, the first being patient handling, followed by communicable disease, according to the provincial government.

Over nine in 10 (92 per cent) of nurses have also complained of increased workload even after the pandemic, according to another report.

‘Violence only makes shortages worse’

A couple of stakeholders welcomed the announcement from B.C.

“B.C.’s health-care system is facing severe shortages of specialized health professionals like registered psychiatric nurses, social workers, respiratory therapists and over 70 other professions who struggle with excessive workload to keep the system running every day,” says Kane Tse, president of Health Sciences Association (HSA).

“Violence against those who deliver front-line care only makes these shortages worse, threatening to push many health professionals out of the system and leaving British Columbians without the care they need. HSA welcomes the government’s goals for reducing violence in the health-care system. We look forward to shared efforts to address the deeper issues which continue to drive aggression and violence against the people who care for all of us.”

Work to create safer health-care workplaces through the relational security model is part of B.C.’s health human resources strategy announced on Sept. 29, 2022. The strategy is focused on ensuring patients get the health services they need and are cared for by a healthy workforce. The strategy focuses on 70 key actions to recruit, train and retain health-care workers, while redesigning the health-care system to foster workplace satisfaction and innovation.

“It’s great news that we now have the resources in place to move forward with this initiative to improve patient and worker safety in health settings across the province,” says Meena Brisard, secretary-business manager of Hospital Employees’ Union. “Under this new security model, workers in protection services will be trained to manage tense and sometimes violent scenarios with a trauma-informed perspective to help de-escalate situations in a safe and respectful way.”

Earlier this year, B.C. also expanded its Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) for people working at health authorities. Under 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.

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