(Canadian OH&S News) — An independent committee examining healthcare at an agency in southwestern Ontario has issued 32 recommendations aimed at improving staff morale and addressing workload and scheduling issues.
The Independent Assessment Committee was formed in accordance with the collective agreement between the Erie St. Clair Community Care Access Centre (ESC-CCAC), which provides care in homes, schools and communities in the Sarnia-Lambton, Chatham-Kent and Windsor-Essex areas, and the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA). The review panel released its report on July 10 following complaints from the agency’s care coordinators, 90 per cent of whom are registered nurses from the union.
The 32 recommendations relate to staff morale, workload/scheduling issues, the professional responsibility complaint process, role clarity, scope of practice and model of care.
For example, the committee recommended the following: a standardization of work processes across the ESC-CCAC’s three sites; the addition of some casual care coordinators to assist in times of increased need; the development of a workload measurement tool that would allow for improved tracking of work and staffing needs; consistent and timely performance reviews with all staff on an annual basis; and consistent one-on-one meetings with staff between performance appraisals to set goals, monitor progress and review scorecards regularly.
ONA president Linda Haslam-Stroud said that the panel acknowledged that workload and staffing issues are significant issues at the ESC-CCAC. She noted that the agency has yet to fill seven vacant care coordinator positions, which could include registered nurses, physiotherapists, social workers, occupational therapists, respiratory therapists and speech therapists. “The panel agrees that the remaining vacancies must be filled to ensure our patients receive the care they deserve,” she said.
“These positions would greatly assist with the staffing needs of the ESC-CCAC, given the needs currently required,” the report confirmed, noting that the use of a “float care coordinator” was extensive and “there is a consistent use of overtime to address the backlog of work from absenteeism and inability to staff on weekends.” Last year, there were 1,503 occurrences of absence from 249 ONA members, or about 2,041 missed days, the equivalent of about eight employees’ full workdays per year.
“Due to the high rates of absenteeism, an employee absenteeism support program was implemented within the last few years, which should assist in the tracking and trending of this concern,” the report said. “It is clearly evident that an interim solution is required because what is currently being implemented is not successful.”
The review panel also noted that “overtime was permitted inconsistently in some areas, according to some ONA members, and home visits were required to be cancelled, in order for the [care coordinators] to address priorities at their desks.” The ESC-CCAC recognized issues with caseload sizes and attempted to redistribute caseloads, the report said, adding that management began assigning some administrative tasks, such as booking home visits, to other staff members.
“Workload and staffing are significant issues at the ESC-CCAC,” the report concluded. “Effective staffing ensures that patient needs are being met and the work environment is palatable.”
The ESC-CCAC could not be reached for comment by COHSN press time on any changes undertaken following the release of the report.