Overcrowding and overwork compromise healthcare
The premiers’ Health Care Innovation Working Group released its first report last month to polite applause. Baby steps, low-hanging fruit, motherhood and apple pie are all words that have been used to describe the initial efforts of the premiers to collaborate on health care without Ottawa herding the cats.
Those of us clapping loudly are trying to blow some air on this spark of pan-Canadian collaboration so that health care improvements do catch fire across the country.
Nurses know changes are needed. Hospitals across the country are at overcapacity. A generally accepted standard of safe hospital occupancy is 85 per cent yet most hospitals are working at a 100 per cent or higher. The results of overcrowding include compromised care, high rates of hospital acquired infections and unnecessary rates of hospital readmission. Another result is dangerous levels of workload, and the resulting vicious circle of working short.
Nurses are twice as likely to be ill or injured as workers in any other occupation. Public sector nurses worked the equivalent of 11,400 full-time equivalent positions in paid and unpaid overtime in 2010. Twenty per cent of nurses in the hospital sector leave their jobs annually, costing a minimum of $25,000 per nurse as a result of the transition. Workload is often cited as a key factor in turnover.