Former health region ranked second lowest average sick days used

By Greg Higgins
December 20, 2017 - 8:00am

Before amalgamating into a single provincial health authority, the now former Prairie North Health Region cut down its average sick days per full time equivalent to the second lowest in Saskatchewan.

As of Dec. 4, Prairie North Health Region, along with the other 11 health regions, were brought together to create the Saskatchewan Health Authority. Before the amalgamation though, data was released which ranked PNHR as having the second lowest average sick hours missed per fulltime equivalent.

According to Vikki Smart, executive transition lead for primary health, the data was something the former health region took pride in.

“We have worked really hard over the last dozen years to get our average sick time down,” Smart said. “We had quite a blitz and were able to significantly reduce it.”

The average across the province is 83.52 full time equivalent hours missed due to sickness. According to the data the former health region was at 70.63.

Smart said the decrease was caused by a change in philosophy.

“It used to be when you went off for surgery it was six weeks automatic and then you’re expected to come back and work full time. A lot of times people would get injured because they are off for so long and then expected to take on a full workload. We just thought that wasn’t fair to employees,” Smart said.

Smart said now the region works with each employee individually based on how they feel and what they are off for. According to Smart instead of just setting an amount of time, they have had far more success with gradual returns.

“They might try to work four hours one week and six the next. Everyone is different so it depends how much they can take on. We also look at modified duties. Depending on what happened we can give the person different jobs to do until they are able to the job they were hired to do,” she said.

Smart said the majority of people wan to be at work, so allowing them to come in and do something helps them feel productive. She added very rarely does she see people trying to take advantage of sick days.

According to Smart, workplace injuries are the biggest contributor to sick days and this change in philosophy has helped decreased chances for re-injury when returning to the workplace. She said the former health region did a lot to prevent them from happening in the first place as well.

“We have reduced our WCB [Workplace Compensation Saskatchewan] claims by 25 per cent per year. That was achieved by being safer, investing in equipment and making sure everyone is trained an educated properly before working.”

Smart added a lot of effort was put into “near misses,” where the region would identify potential hazards before they happened and eliminate any chance of injury.

Smart wasn’t sure how data will be collected or labelled now that the entire province is working under one health authority. She said there are no plans on slowing down though.

“Are we going to keep doing what we’re doing? You bet. Even as the boundary stands I don’t see us changing our practice because we care about our staff and want to keep them safe,” she said. 

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