Workplace violence at 'crisis' level for care workers, says Burnaby non-profit

The head of a Burnaby-based non-profit addressed the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health on June 4 on workplace violence in Canada’s continuing care sector.

SafeCare BC CEO Jennifer Lyle — speaking on behalf of the Canadian Association of Long-Term Care — said the sector was in a state of crisis. She raised three main concerns: understaffing, lack of resources, and the increasing pressure faced by health care workers.

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“Consider the numbers: Nationally, time-loss claims due to violence in health and social services have increased by over 65% in the past ten years,” Lyle said.

In B.C. alone, over 60% of all workplace violence claims come from the health and social services among major industry groups, despite the sector accounting for only 11% of the provincial workforce.

Workplace violence contributes to the vicious cycle of staffing shortages in continuing care. Staffing shortages lead to workplace injuries, and workplace injuries lead to staffing shortages. Lyle points to B.C.’s injury rates as an example of the crisis: “In 2018, the equivalent of nearly 650 full-time positions were lost.”

Lyle notes that the cost of workplace violence goes beyond numbers. The human toll of this crisis affects both the care providers and the clients. When care providers experience mental and physical suffering, clients’ quality of care is negatively affected by the loss of a trusted provider. Staffing shortages add to the pressure care providers face each day.

The federal government, Lyle said, has opportunities to make an impact on this crisis. Investing in care home infrastructure, creating public-facing awareness campaigns, updating the national health human resources strategy, establishing nationally accepted core competencies for health care workers, and taking a leadership role to create national-level workplace safety data benchmarks are among the suggested actions.


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