Culture at Nanaimo hospital is ‘toxic’: report

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital is failing in the management of its workers, who are complaining about bullying, secrecy and retaliation, says a report.

Island Health asked Vector Group to assess the culture — behaviour patterns, demeanour and attitude — at the hospital. Information was gathered on the hospital site between Oct. 10 and Nov. 6 and involved interviews with 473 managers, supervisors, nurses, technicians and doctors.

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The hospital does have people who love their jobs and co-workers, and want the facility to be a beacon of care, “but the numbers are far, far lower than even an average poorly performing organization,” says a briefing document obtained by the Times Colonist.

“In Vector Group’s collective opinion, the organizational culture is past the ‘tipping point,’ ” the document says.

“The simple act of continuing with daily operations exacerbates the toxicity of the culture. This situation is not sustainable and will, in due course, lead to some form of self-destruction.”

On the other hand, it says, the problems are “very fixable.”

The interviews included questions about the hospital’s leadership and management and whether the workers would recommend the hospital to friends and family.

“Numerous people in several parts of the hospital volunteered that they’ve instructed their friends/families to take them elsewhere (the mainland) for care if they get sick,” the document says.

Asked if they would recommend the hospital as a workplace, they gave an almost universal “no.”

Workers said the hospital’s management is too focused on its budget and not enough on people, and that it allows a disrespectful toxic culture to exist. They said it maintains a top-down, heavy-handed, command-and-control hierarchy, values cronyism and nepotism, excludes physicians from decision-making, and blames and bullies.

“Basic trust between people is non-existent at all levels,” the document says. “Suspicion, fear and often loathing predominate organizational members’ thinking about administration.”

The document notes that the survey results represent the “perceptions” of the people interviewed, but “for people in this organization, their perception is their reality.”

The results show a systemic problem, but they are a call to action, not an indictment of specific people, it says.

“From all indications, Nanaimo Regional General Hospital is failing significantly in regard to managing people.”

The document also touches on the controversy raised by the IHealth electronic records system, saying there is a perception that staff are told “it’s their fault for things not going well, whether it be IHealth or some other issue.”

The $174-million paperless health-records system was launched in March 2016 at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, Dufferin Place residential care centre in Nanaimo and Oceanside Health Centre in Parksville.

The system sparked protest from some doctors, who said it caused dangerous dosage errors and took time away from patient care. The results of an independent review ordered by Health Minister Adrian Dix are expected at the end of this month.

Perhaps counterintuitively, one of the recommendations made by Vector Group is a rapid roll-out of IHealth to other areas using a new management model and more effective computer training.

Other recommendations include improved communication and management systems.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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