As someone who has been watching Nova Scotia’s health care system, it is not beyond belief to think racism exists within the managerial ranks, who also show inclinations for bullying employees.
The subject of racism in health care has been brought to headlines by accusations of former Capital Health counselor, Tony Smith.
Beyond unions warring over which will represent what group of workers, labour relations in health care are not good. The accreditation reports for the various health authorities show that at least 52 percent of health care workers don’t trust their employer. That’s not a healthy situation. And it’s why the annual lists of top employers should be read with healthy skepticism. The organizations conducting those surveys never speak to the workers to learn what their workplace is like. All that is required for inclusion on these lists is for a manager or managerial team to tick boxes on a form. There is no follow up to see if these employers actually implement their policies.
For example, new parents are allowed maternity and paternity leave. Well, I’ve been told of a manager who, because of bad scheduling on her part, pressured one father to return to work early. He refused. So when his leave was up his manager bullied him so extensively, probably in the hope of provoking a response that would get him fired, that he filed a grievance with his union. The solution hammered out prevents this manager from speaking to this employee, they are only allowed to communicate in writing. That contributes to workplace toxicity, as does the hiring of a vice president’s boyfriend for an undefined position when an authority makes cutbacks in other areas. These are not something top employer lists consider. And they are nowhere near the more salacious activities.
Going to the original complaint of racism, the most jaw-dropping example was the Registered Nurse who told me of a job interview at Capital Health. This RN, who is not in the province, had a specialty and was twice interviewed by another RN who headed a team in this area. The team leader said she had to send the RN for a pro forma interview with someone in Human Resources before a job could be offered.
During the interview, the HR manager told this RN, who is a member of a visible minority, “You’ll never work here. ******* like you cause a lot of trouble for people like us.” I suppose a warped defense is that the HR manager was addressing what she perceived was this RN’s religious/cultural background, not skin colour, even though ethnicity probably lead to the conclusion.
The RN, who was stunned by what was said, didn’t lay a complaint believing since no one else heard it, it boiled down to one person’s word against another. (They did mention it to the RN who conducted the original interviews and moved on.) How many times does this happen in health care, both in human resources management and patient care?
In this province we have a number of examples of institutional abuse and racism (Shelburne School for Boys, NS School for Coloured Children, residential schools), so why would we be surprised to find it in health care?