VGH commits to more staff for Health Records Department

Health Records members present views to medical VP, win commitment to external review

Staff in the troubled Health Records Department at Vancouver Hospital have won a commitment from the facility’s VP of Medical Affairs Jeff Coleman for more permanent staff and an external review of Health Records restructuring. That’s in addition to an earlier directive to the Vancouver/Richmond Health Board by Health Minister Penny Priddy to conduct an overall review of the hospital’s $117 million Patient Care Information System. In a meeting February 23, health records staff reviewed with Coleman the findings of an HEU-commissioned report documenting how restructuring in the department had failed. Those findings include: ? patient files frequently out of order yet health records staff no longer assigned to check and reorder files; ? a huge backlog of work including 1000 incomplete charts in the doctors’ consulting room and wait times for information requests of up to 90 days — far in excess of the legal period of 30 days; and ? error rate increases of more than 50 per cent. Health records staff emphasized to Coleman that these problems compromise patient care because of the inaccessibility and incompleteness of patient charts. And they explained how the re-engineering of work had transformed a smoothly functioning department into one plagued by morale problems and increased rates of illness and injury. “It’s important for hospital administrators to understand why restructuring went off the rails so profoundly,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “Our health records members told the medical affairs VP that redesigning work without consulting with front-line workers had gutted quality assurance in this department.” “Cuts to staff, supervisory capacity and services before the new system was in place has led to an increase — not a decrease — in workload,” adds Allnutt. “Now it appears that Vancouver Hospital has acknowledged this problem and is prepared to add new permanent positions to Health Records.” “It’s a good beginning to a longer term process of rebuilding confidence in the Health Records Department. Our members in Health Records are well-prepared to make constructive suggestions to the health regions external review teams on Health Records and PCIS.”