B.C. speeding up implementation of health and safety tracking system for health-care workers

Union wants province to focus more on prevention after worker was stabbed to death in a parking garage by a former patient

British Columbia is spending $1 million on completing development of a province-wide tracking system for workplace health and safety incidents in health facilities.

The spending is part of a $10 million investment designed to boost patient and worker safety.

Health-care worker murdered

The announcement came in the wake of the murder of a mental health worker in Richmond, B.C.

John Bland was fatally stabbed in a parkade after leaving the offices of Richmond Mental Health on Jan. 19. Bland, 62, was found by co-workers. He was able to give police a description of his attacker before he lost conciousness.

The attacker, a 49-year-old Richmond man who was a former client of Bland, was arrested.

An RCMP spokesman said Bland had only two shifts remaining before he was due to retire. He was ambushed as he walked out of an employee exit into the third floor of the parkade.

Union says government plan doesn’t go far enough

Cindy Stewart, president of the Health Sciences Association of British Columbia, the union that represents more than 12,000 health care and social workers, said the tracking system is “a fine project”.

“But it does nothing to immediately reduce the incidence of injury and occupational disease for health-care workers,” said Stewart. “A million-dollar announcement on the heels of a tragic incident is not going to address the very real concerns of health-care workers. The people who work in our health-care system will find little comfort in hearing that a computer-tracking system will be accelerated.”

Wants focus on prevention

While documentation is important to assess the causes of occupational health and safety risks, prevention is the key, Stewart said.

“If (this) announcement is designed to comfort health-care workers, it’s not working,” she said. “It is the height of hypocrisy to be making this announcement at the same time the government is gutting the very occupational health and safety regulations that protect workers. Instead of enforcing regulations that insure a safe workplace, the government has eliminated enforceable regulations and replaced them with ‘guidelines’ that employers can choose to follow.”

The government’s plan

The province said its $10 million investment will enhance safety measures for both patients and workers in the health-care system.

“Our goal is to make our hospitals and our standard of care the best and safest in Canada, both for patients and health-care workers,” said Health Services Minister Shirley Bond. “Excellence in patient care is best achieved when our health professionals themselves feel safe and supported at work. The investment will build on our existing practices, and will set B.C. apart as a leader in health care health and safety.”

Among the measures:

•$1 million to complete development of a province-wide tracking system on workplace health and safety incidents in health facilities;

•$3 million for a one-time endowment to establish a research chair of patient safety in the University of British Columbia’s faculty of medicine; and

•$6 million over three years to support the work of the patient safety task force announced in May 2004.

The Occupational Health and Safety Agency for Healthcare in B.C., in partnership with health authorities, will complete the development of the new central web-based information system to track health workplace incidents throughout the province. The system will allow profiling of injury rates, injury and incident follow-up activities, exposures and risk factors, as well as comparisons across facilities and jurisdictions.

The patient safety task force was established to promote systematic improvement in patient safety within the health care system in B.C. and is comprised of vice-presidents of medicine, chief nursing officers, representatives of the Health Care Protection Program from the Ministry of Finance and senior staff from the Ministry of Health Services.

The task force will build on its work with professionals and health authorities across the province in areas such as infection control, drug interactions and other key policy issues. The task force will provide province-wide support for the development of standards and best practices, surveillance and education across all health care institutions, including the residential care sector.

“All of these new measures are about giving us access to the most accurate data and the most up-to-date research available — information on which to base our approach to patient care and health workplace safety in B.C.,” said Bond. “Streamlining our vast health care system of more than 100 hospitals, 8,300 doctors and 36,000 nurses from 52 health authorities to six has improved our ability to put new structures in place in a co-ordinated way.”

The chair of patient safety at UBC will be part of the newly created department of anesthesiology, pharmacology and patient safety. The chair will be responsible for establishing B.C. as a leader in the field of patient safety and, through research and education, supporting the health care system in providing safe and appropriate care.

“There is an urgent need for a systematic and scientific approach to patient safety across the health system,” said Dr. Gavin Stuart, dean of UBC’s faculty of medicine. “One in 13 adults hospitalised in Canada can expect to experience an adverse event, and many, perhaps most, of these adverse events are preventable. By applying proven interventions to improve our performance systems and assist health care practitioners, we can greatly enhance patient safety.”

To read the full story, login below.

Not a subscriber?

Start your subscription today!