Blog Post #341 – Health Care Records High Absenteeism in New Brunswick – (2007)

Excerpt from the OH&S Canada Magazine

Original report from Jason Contant

A recent study of health care workers across the country shows that New Brunswick tops the sick-time list while Alberta posted the “healthiest” results.

New Brunswick recorded the highest average number of days lost to illness or disability in 2006, notes “Canada’s Health Care Providers, 2007,” a report released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information in early December.

Health care workers in that province, between the ages of 25 and 54, lost an average of 16.1 days each year. At the other end of the scale, Alberta recorded an average of 7.2 days away from work. Sick time for the remaining provinces ranged from 9.7 to 16 days a year.

Nurses had the highest number of days lost among all health care professionals, reporting a national average of 14.4 days, almost twice that for all occupations.

The study cites six categories of injuries resulting in lost-time claims: traumatic injuries; systemic diseases and disorders; infectious diseases; mental, stress and anxiety-related disorders; signs, symptoms and ill-defined disorders; and other injuries.

Traumatic injuries were found to be the most common, making up 85.4 per cent of total claims; systemic diseases and disorders comprised 6.8 per cent; and mental, stress and anxiety-related disorders accounted for just 0.9 per cent. Of the traumatic injuries reported, nearly two-thirds were described as sprains, strains and tears.

“It is important to reinforce that these figures typically represent only serious injuries reported and claimed as lost-time injuries,” the report notes. “Every day, relatively minor injuries go unreported.”

Marilyn Quinn, president of the New Brunswick Nurses Union, says that she is not surprised by the study’s results. “At any given time,” Quinn says, about 250 nurses in the province are off work.
Quinn says she has asked the provincial health minister to consider forming a committee of nursing stakeholders — including university faculty members who teach new nurses, employers and union/association representatives — to discuss health care issues.

“We’re not going to grow nurses overnight, and bringing in a hundred more to have a hundred more become sick is not the solution,” she says. “If we’re in this position today, where are we going to be in three years when over 40 per cent of our work force is retiring?”

Vicki McKenna, vice-president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, suggests that an aging work force and a national nurse shortage have created additional workload for nurses. “If you have enough people to assist, if you have the proper equipment and its safe equipment, then you can withstand that work over time,” McKenna says. “But if you don’t have those pieces in place, you are certainly more vulnerable to injury.”

My opinion

This report came about many years ago and the health-care industry is one that workplace health and safety was never a driving factor until large numbers of workers started to take extended time off. Provincial health-care costs started to climb and, only then, did anyone look to improve the system.

In Ontario, PSWs (personal support workers) have a high degree of absenteeism. The workers do everything they can the move and adjust the patient with little or no regard for their own safety. They are taught proper lifting techniques but PSWs are still getting hurt on a regular basis. Have you ever tried to move someone that is nearly dead weight? Have you tried to move someone that does not want to be moved? Both scenarios have causes for concerns. PSWs go through this every day and are now a voice for change.

Contact your local governmental health-care ministry and give a voice to the need for change.

Remember — In Ontario, “ALL Accidents are Preventable”

‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.

Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP — Foundation Level
VP & Senior Trainer
HRS Group Inc.

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