Is the hospital accreditation process compromised by coercion?
In Nova Scotia our health authorities traditionally cherry-pick the results to build a story that everything is fine and our system is maintaining national standards. But these same health executives ignore results that show half (between 48 to 52 percent) of their staff don’t trust, believe or respect them.
I raise the question because I’ve been told that this week Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville is undergoing the accreditation process. In prep for this VRH circulated the accreditation questionnaires and attached management-approved answers. That doesn’t seem in the spirit of fact-based research.
But VRH’s action isn’t the first time I’ve had people in the health care system question the accreditation process. Five years ago a hospital worker told me that their authority would hire extra staff for the accreditation period, call a Code Purple as a way to empty the ER for a day and send patients to another hospital if they were overcrowded. I was also told of a manager at the Pictou hospital who stood over her staff as they filled out their accreditation questionnaires. My source said this manager claimed it was to prevent errors or confusion. But even this type of passive-aggressive management failed to stop staff from trashing the place. When the health authority published the accreditation results national averages were stripped out so people couldn’t see how poorly they performed against other hospitals.
A former accreditation surveyor says, “ It is difficult, almost impossible, to get objective information about what is happening. Surveyors rarely got to speak with unselected patients or staff except for a few (surveyors) who get off of the beaten track.”
Silencing comment is not unlike the experience provided to a health minister when they visit a hospital. Executives who work off-site are on-the-floor to micromanage every minute of the minister’s time so that he/she never comes in to contact with anyone who hasn’t been prepped on the proper platitudes to present to the politician.
It’s ironic that this arises in the week when women everywhere are posting #metoo on social media to show the scale of sexual harassment in the workplace. That’s wrong. Perhaps the next campaign will be about management coercion and improper pressure. That’s another type of harassment. In the meantime, we are left to wonder about the accuracy of the hospital accreditation process.