With injuries on the rise, new B.C. agency looks to keep health care workers safe
VANCOUVER -- The provincial government announced Sunday a new organization tasked with finding ways to reduce the number of workplace injuries in B.C.'s health care industry.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province will pay $8.5 million over three years for the agency, which has been created to address what the ministry describes as "high rates" of injury.
In a statement, the ministry said the organization will work to identify and promote best practices.
"Health-care providers are there for us when we need them most – they deserve safe and healthy workplaces," Dix said.
"That's why we are bringing employee and employer groups together and creating a dedicated and independent organization with a strong mandate to address the challenges they face."
Dix said the organization was created following a consensus that B.C. must do more to protect its health care workers.
The ministry said workplace injuries are on the rise in both the province's health care and social services sector. Injuries claims in the health care and social services sector rose by $11 million between 2017 and 2018, an 11 per cent increase.
Among the most vocal of groups citing an increase in injuries is the B.C. Nurses Union. The union's president said in the statement Sunday that it was pleased by the establishment of the new group.
"We have identified 22 high-risk worksites around the province and look forward to working together with the new organization to properly protect nurses and their patients by increasing safety in our places of work," Christine Sorensen said.
The union spoke out about a need for "immediate action" in September following an attack on a nurse in Abbotsford that left her with a broken jaw.
The nurse was beaten by a patient with an exercise weight, the union said, and sustained several additional injuries.
A few months earlier, the union rallied in downtown Vancouver, demanding the province do more to keep them safe.
At the time, the union said an average of 26 nurses per month suffered violent injuries at work in B.C., and that the number of violent conflicts at health care facilities had increased more than 50 per cent between 2014 and 2018.
A local psychiatric hospital was slapped with the largest fine ever issued by WorkSafeBC back in January for failing to maintain a safe workplace for staff, the union said. B.C.'s Forensic Psychiatric Hospital was fined $646,304.88 following a ruling that it failed to assess and control the risk of violence.