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New program to support safer workplaces for health care workers

A new security model at health care facilities designed to protect health care workers and patients will be implemented across the province, including the East Kootenay Regional Hospital.
East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook. Google maps photo

A new security model at health care facilities designed to protect health care workers and patients will be implemented across the province, including the East Kootenay Regional Hospital.

The BC government announced 320 in-house protection services officers at 14 violence prevention leads will be hired through a program administered by SWITCH BC, a new organization focused on addressing workplace safety, according to a news release.

“These actions will help ensure all health-care employees have safe and healthy workplaces, and that the patients who count on them are accessing care in a safe environment. Ensuring our health-care facilities are free of violence will not only help us recruit and retain health-care workers, but it will also improve patient care and continuity,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, in a news release. “Establishing SWITCH BC furthered our commitment to create safe and welcoming workplaces for our health-care employees, and this latest action empowers security personnel to support these efforts.”

Additionally, health authorities are receiving funding to create a relational security model in 26 health care settings across B.C. including the East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook and the Kootenay-Boundary Regional Hospital in Trail.

The new model will ensure that security personnel are able to anticipate, de-escalate and prevent aggression, while using trauma-informed practice to create a safer environment for staff and patients.

“As Minister of Labour, my top priority is the safety of workers, including those who are working tirelessly in our health-care sector,” said Harry Bains, Minister of Labour, in a news release. “Integrating this new security model into our health-care facilities will help protect health-care workers from violence – be it physical, emotional or verbal – and allow them to complete their shifts safely.”

According to Interior Health, a total of 46 incidents involving aggressive behaviour were recorded at EKRH between Oct. 1, 2021 and Oct. 24, 2022. Aggressive behaviours could encompass verbal aggression toward staff, to a push, to an incident involving significant physical violence.

SWITCH BC (Safety, Wellbeing, Innovation, Training and Collaboration in Healthcare) is also receiving $2 million from the province to address workplace safety, an addition from the $8.5 million over three years initially announced in 2019 to establish the newly-formed organization.

It was created following consultations in public-sector collective bargaining processes, and included representation from all health-sector bargaining associations as well as Doctors of BC, Health Employers Association of British Columbia and the Ministry of Health.

“After years of advocating for increased safety for nurses, BCNU welcomes this announcement and considers it a positive step toward addressing the increased violence we are seeing in the health-care system, said Aman Grewal, president of the BC Nurses Union. “Between now and the fall of 2023, we fully expect to be involved in the implementation of these security measures and look forward to working together with the government to improve conditions for nurses, patients and all health-care workers.”

Work to create safer health-care workplaces through the relational security model is part of B.C.’s Health Human Resources Strategy announced in September, according to a news release. The strategy focuses on 70 key actions to recruit, train and retain health-care workers in B.C.

Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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