CANADA British Columbia Launches New Registry for Workers

A first-of-its-kind  Canadian registry to help ensure individuals working for publicly funded health care employers in the province are providing appropriate standards of care to patients was launched by the province of British Columbia.

The BC Care  Aide & Community Health Worker Registry became operational on January 2010. Care aides and community health workers have until April 28 to register, said Bruce Bell, manager of the registry. Those registering after that date will be required to demonstrate they have the required knowledge and patient-care skills "from a bona fide training institution" before they can work for another publicly funded employer, Bell says. He added a new voluntary provincial curriculum for care aides and community health workers has been set up.
Under the registry, expected to affect about 25,000 workers, employers are required to report any allegations of patient neglect or abuse by an employee (including financial, verbal, emotional, physical or sexual) to the registry at the time of suspension or termination of employment. The care worker is taken off the registry pending the outcome of an investigation or arbitration/grievance procedure, Bell said.

Removal could  be either permanent or temporary. Workers will be reinstated to the registry if they are either cleared of the allegations or the remedy sought by the employer does not include termination of employment.

"The registry  will not discipline care aides and/or community health workers," notes Shae Greenfield, a public affairs officer with the provincial Ministry of Health Services. Greenfield added disciplinary actions would ultimately rest with the employer. "It will only register, suspend or remove registrants in response to an employer's action to suspend or terminate an employee for alleged abuse of a patient, resident or client."

Workers can  appeal the decision to remove or suspend them from the registry in an established non-binding process Greenfield says. There will be four special investigators, agreed upon by unions involved. If a union member disagrees with the decision of the investigator, the member can proceed to full arbitration as per the union’s collective agreement, Greenfield reports. Non-union members who disagree with a finding have the right to "judicial appeal."

The new process  also introduces intermediary steps, such as education rather than termination, whereby an accused worker could enter into an anger management course or work in non-direct care..

Marcy Cohen,  research and policy director with the Burnaby-based Hospital Employees' Union (HEU), says the voluntary provincial curriculum now in place came about after private training institutions began cropping up across the province, with non-standardized courses of different lengths – even those with "no-fail" policies – appearing.

"There were  enough concerned employers who also didn't know what skill level they were hiring when people graduated from these programs," Cohen says. Adds Bell, "The standards go from virtually learned it on the job to people [who] have six months of training."

Cohen reports  part of the registry's mandate will eventually ensure all colleges are following the standard. "After a period of about one-and-a-half years, when we are more organized, only people who graduated from those recognized programs will be able to work in a publicly funded long-term care or home support agency." Greenfield added, "The majority of care aides and community health workers work for employers at least partially funded by the public and [are] therefore required to register." (workersxzcompxzkit)

The registry  came into being after the health ministry, employers and unions worked together to introduce a standardized training curriculum and a transparent process for investigating resident abuse allegations, the HEU notes in a statement. Initially, the HEU and other health sector unions opposed the registry, announced last year, on the grounds it seemed like an easy way for employers to target and get rid of staff accused of resident abuse without due process.

Once operational,  the registry may also incorporate tools to assist with assessments for internationally educated care aides and community health workers, Greenfield says.

Because the  registry is believed to be the first of its kind in Canada, there is currently no mechanism for sharing information between provinces.

Workers from  other provinces seeking employment are required to submit proof of successful completion of a recognized training program in BC or an equivalent post-secondary program in Canada, she says.

Author Robert Elliott, executive vice president, Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. has worked successfully for 20 years with many industries to reduce Workers' Compensation costs, including airlines, health care, manufacturing, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. He can be contacted at: or 860-553-6604.

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