Health care workers fear patient lives at risk — poll

News release

Year-end survey provides bleak snapshot of conditions on health care’s front lines

Nine out of ten workers agree that the way things are going in B.C.’s health care system, mistakes will be made that will harm or kill patients. That’s just one of the disturbing findings of a year-end Mustel Group survey of Hospital Employees’ Union members.

And an overwhelming majority of those surveyed — 87 per cent — say that the current climate of service cuts, closures and privatization in hospitals and long-term care facilities is affecting the quality of care they can provide to B.C. patients.

“Behind the media reports of overcrowded ERs and of patients being stashed in linen closets are concerns, deeply held by health care workers, that patients are at risk as a result of government policies,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt.

“It’s all contributed to poor morale on health care’s front lines and to a sense that things aren’t going to get better any time soon.”

The telephone survey of 500 HEU members was carried out over two weeks ending December 10, 2003 and is considered accurate to within 4.5 per cent, 19 out of 20 times.

Other findings include:
  • 73 per cent of those polled said staff morale in their workplace had worsened either a little (14 per cent) or a lot (59 per cent) over the past year. Only three per cent felt staff morale had improved at all.
  • Only 22 per cent of respondents believe that despite the short-term pain, health care will improve over the next few years.
  • 79 per cent of health care workers are feeling uncertain about their future and 32 per cent are actively seeking work outside of health care. Only 21 per cent believe that their job is safe in the current climate of cuts, closures and privatization.
“This survey paints an alarming portrait of the damage government policies have wreaked on public health care,” says Allnutt. “Expensive government ad campaigns can’t cover-up the fact that service cuts and privatization have had a devastating effect on working and caring conditions on health care’s front lines.”

The province-wide survey of HEU members includes licensed practical nurses, care aides and other patient care staff (46 per cent); housekeeping, dietary and laundry workers (22 per cent); clerical workers such as unit clerks, OR booking clerks and medical transcriptionists (17 per cent); technicians (seven per cent); trades and maintenance workers (4 per cent); and others.

Fifty-two per cent of respondents work in acute care hospitals while 38 per cent work in long-term and extended care facilities. The balance of survey respondents work in community health and social services and in other care settings.

-30- Contact: Mike Old, communications officer, 604-828-6771 (cell)

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