December 12, 2019

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St. B surveys staff to 'focus on the direction' of hospital

<p>St. Boniface Hospital president and chief executive officer Martine Bouchard wrote a memo to all staff, asking them to fill out a survey to "focus on the direction we want for St. Boniface Hospital.”</p>

SASHA SEFTER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

St. Boniface Hospital president and chief executive officer Martine Bouchard wrote a memo to all staff, asking them to fill out a survey to "focus on the direction we want for St. Boniface Hospital.”

Beleaguered St. Boniface Hospital has sent a survey to all staff asking to list the facility's strengths and sources of pride, only days after acknowledging it has dealt with "critical and unsafe" levels of patient flow.

In recent weeks, the Free Press has reported on chaos in the St. B emergency room, culminating in the allegations a post-surgical patient died after waiting for four hours while the hospital was directing people away due to a shortage of beds.

On Monday, president and chief executive officer Martine Bouchard wrote a memo to all staff, asking them to fill out a survey to "focus on the direction we want for St. Boniface Hospital."

"We understand that the past year has been challenging for all of us in this period of uncertainty and unprecedented changes in our health-care system," Bouchard wrote in the memo obtained by the Free Press.

The 11-question survey is too vague to be actionable and doesn’t offer a real chance to give negative feedback, said University of Winnipeg assistant Prof. Katherine Breward, who studies applying psychology to the workplace.

"Generally, if things are not going well at an organization, everybody knows it," Breward said Tuesday.

"A lot of companies will send out surveys that are designed to be positive because they don’t want to highlight the negative, but that can backfire on you," she said.

"If they’re not given an opportunity to fully acknowledge and expand upon what they think needs improvement, there's a very real risk they will see the survey as window dressing, an artificial attempt to throw a bandage on a problem."

Because of the nature of many hospital jobs, St. B supplies worker Danielle Harris said she and others don’t always check their work email. She hadn’t yet seen the survey Tuesday.

"We’re just not computer people, which is why we choose the jobs we choose," she said.

Harris said she’s always appreciated the flexibility and job security at the hospital, but that’s been eroded in recent years. "We’re a health-care facility, and they do not care about the health of their employees, absolutely not."

Breward said the survey’s focus on the positive could exacerbate current problems.

"If people are feeling very badly, they’re going to be very skeptical about surveys that won’t acknowledge things could be bad," she said. "There's basically a whole host of negative consequences — each influencing the other — when you're not willing to tackle problems head-on."

Manitoba Nurses Union president Darlene Jackson criticized the survey's "leading questions" and suggested the hospital should be asking nurses for their thoughts on what can be done to improve patient care.

"Nurses are dealing with excessive overtime and unsustainable workload due to ongoing health-care cuts and ER closures that have hindered their ability to provide quality patient care," Jackson said. "First and foremost, any new strategic plan should focus on addressing these core issues."

A spokesperson for St. Boniface Hospital said it is looking forward to "getting feedback from our staff, positive and otherwise."

tvanderhart@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @tessavanderhart

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