EMPLOYEES DON’T LIKE LEAN: SURVEY
NDP makes information public
Fewer than half of Saskatchewan health-care workers support Lean, a government initiative to reduce waste in the health-care sector.
That’s according to a survey conducted in April by Aon Hewitt, made public Wednesday through an NDP freedom of information request.
“When over half of the respondents aren’t pleased with the changes that have occurred in their work area because of Lean, that’s a strong signal that we’re on the wrong direction,” said NDP Leader Cam Broten.
The survey shows that 54 per cent of Saskatchewan health-care workers do not support “the continuous improvement efforts (i.e. Lean),” though only 66 per cent of workers said they were aware of Lean efforts across the province.
The survey largely points to low employee satisfaction: Employees feel underappreciated and they say not enough is being done to retain front-line workers.
Health Minister Dustin Duncan said the satisfaction level is about on par with a 2011 employee survey (Lean was implemented in 2012), but agreed the numbers are “a little bit disappointing.”
“We obviously want to get to the root of why our satisfaction numbers for our own employees aren’t as high as they should be,” said Duncan.
Tracy Zambory, president of the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN), often hears from frustrated front-line workers.
Earlier this year, SUN polled 1,500 of its members about Lean and found similar results to this survey.
“Lean’s business approach is better suited for the administrative side of health care,” said Zambory. “It’s a really poor fit for something as complicated as patient care.”
Duncan said Lean’s goal is to empower front-line workers. It may be having the opposite effect: Zambory said nurses “feel like they can’t practise up to their regulatory standards and that patient safety is at risk.”
Just 29 per cent of workers and 36 per cent of doctors believe “we are transforming the health-care system to significantly improve the quality of (patient) care in the province,” according to the survey.
Zambory has heard of long-term care nurses being timed on how quickly they could pass patients’ medication, which is a “huge patient safety issue.”
There’s now a 30-minute time limit to transfer people into and out of a ward, added Zambory. If nurses exceed the time limit as they’re doing “critical education with the patient,” they must explain why they couldn’t beat the clock.
Gordon Campbell, president of the CUPE Health Care Council, which represents most health-care employees save for RNs and doctors, had a similar story.
“There are time constraints, for instance, if I’m cleaning a hospital room,” said Campbell. “It may take me longer to clean that room than another one ... Different units, different conditions require more time and in some cases that’s not being given.”
Only 26 per cent of survey respondents said they have sufficient “people resources available to get our work done”; only 18 per cent agreed “senior leaders act on employee feedback.”
As in any workplace, Duncan said, some dissatisfaction may hinge on the large amount of change in a short period of time.
Other health organizations who have implemented Lean have said “the first two or three years are the most difficult because you are implementing such large-scale transformation,” said Duncan.
“You just can’t engage 44,000 people in that all at once. It takes a lot of time.”
The government entered a contract with John Black & Associates to implement Lean across the Health Ministry in August 2012. It renewed the contract in August 2014.
Provincially, 9,469 health-care workers and 776 physicians responded to the employee engagement survey.