Nanaimo Hospital on path to 'self-destruction,' new report shows

By Spencer Sterritt
November 9, 2017 - 1:41pm Updated: November 9, 2017 - 5:08pm

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital was criticized for becoming a poor workplace which didn't respect their workers, according to a report sought by Island Health. File Photo/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — Too focused on the budget, being heavy-handed and censuring staff from raising questions are just some of the criticisms found in a new report about Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.

The cultural assessment report was presented to roughly 25 Island Health and hospital staff, representing a broad spectrum of health care leaders, on Monday, Nov. 6. by Vector Group, Inc.

Damian Lange, director of clinical operations at NRGH, confirmed to NanaimoNewsNOW the report, which interviewed and observed nearly 475 staff at the hospital, was the culmination of an 18 month relationship with Vector Group looking into issues around the working culture at the hospital.

“From all indications Nanaimo Regional General Hospital is failing significantly in regard to managing people,” the report laid out. It said the hospital doesn't focus enough on staff, which led to a “toxic culture” or disrespecting and devaluing everyone.

“Much of this content is quite difficult to take and to think about,” Lange said. “The reality is we have work here to do in Nanaimo.”

When asked if they would recommend Nanaimo Hospital as a place to work for a favourite relative just finishing their schooling, nearly everyone asked said they wouldn't, according to the report.

In fact, many hospital staff said they instructed relatives and friends to go elsewhere if they're sick.

“Basic trust between people is non-existent at all levels,” the report said. “Displaying a sense of pride and willingness to help each other out is a rarity and when present is viewed with suspicion. Groups and functions that used to support each other and get along well have lost trust in each other and often become overtly hostile.”

“We know this is going to take us years to work through and to get to an improved cultural state,” Lange said. “We also know it's taken us years to get here.”

The bureaucracy involved in running a hospital was heavily criticized in the report as well.

“Maintains a top heavy bureaucracy with unclear management roles, responsibilities and accountability with no focus on people; admin/management at all levels not responding to staff issues; maintains a cloak of secrecy decisions, keeps people in the dark about what management is doing,” were several comments laid out in the report.

Lange said in a complex work place such as a hospital, which is also influenced by political changes at the provincial and federal level, the human element can be lost in the shuffle.

Despite the many issues found in the report, it maintained there are passionate people working at the hospital who love their jobs helping patients and want to make it a better place to work and be treated.

Christine Sorensen, acting president of the BC Nurses' Union, said after years of trying to shine a light on problems at NRGH, she and other nurses were “reassured” their concerns were made public and acted upon.

“The nurses feel the report has validated the concerns they've brought forward. We're very reassured to read that the problems highlighted in the report are considered very fixable. Nurses want to do their job in an environment where they're respected as professionals, which allows them to provide safe patient care.”

Sorensen said systemic problems the union tried to address were a care-delivery model introduced in 2014 and the rollout of the iHealth system, which she said was botched and led to significant issues. The iHealth system is also being investigated and analyzed in a separate review.

Moving forward, the cultural report by the Vector Group laid out key ways for the hospital to work through the issues, including quickly introducing new feedback systems for staff, fix an ongoing scheduling problem for holidays and vacations to show staff change can happen for the better and work to facilitate constructive conversation between teams and departments.

Lange said while the hospital faces a daunting challenge ahead of them, the report was shared with staff in a show of transparency and workshops are set up with management and leadership over the coming weeks.

“As hard as this information is to digest...the fact it's now in our face forces us to realize culture is our number one priority moving forward and we need to focus on our people.”




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