Vitalité moves to fix 'poisoned work environment' at Bathurst hospital

After a six-month investigation into staff complaints of harassment at the Chaleur Regional Hospital, 10 recommendations are being implemented to improve what the Vitalité Health Network calls a "poisoned work environment."

Vitalité CEO Gilles Lanteigne says investigator's recommendations to be implemented in extended care unit

An outside investigator interviewed 40 employees and reviewed 1,000 pages of documents before determining the work environment in the extended care unit of the Chaleur Regional Hospital was toxic. (Vitalité Health Network)

After a six-month investigation into staff complaints of harassment at the Chaleur Regional Hospital, 10 recommendations are now being implemented to improve what the Vitalité Health Network calls a "poisoned work environment."

The problems in the 29-bed extended care unit of the hospital surfaced in March, and Vitalité CEO and president Gilles Lanteigne said after a preliminary investigation an outside investigator was quickly brought in.

"We're very, very focused on improving the quality of care and we think the quality of care is related to the working environment," Lanteigne told Information Morning Moncton.

The investigator met with nearly 40 employees and read through hundreds of pages of documents, including exchanges on social media.

The findings point to negative and inappropriate comments by some workers, excessive tolerance for inappropriate behaviour and language and poor implementation of changes by management.

"His conclusions are really based on solid evidence," Lanteigne said. "We're very happy that it's done and we've started implementing changes and in addition we've already had four meetings with union representatives, with staff ... so we're turning the page here."

'Nobody looking for trouble'

Lanteigne said there were many issues that he believes could have been caught earlier and seemed to "snowball" quickly.

"The most important one was basic teamwork ... people not respecting each other," he said. "It was globally people not believing that they need to work together to provide quality care."

Vitalite CEO Gilles Lanteigne says that problems in the 4th West unit of the Bathurst hospital seemed to 'snowball' quickly, and promises that management will improve communication with staff. (CBC)
Lanteigne said some employees will be moved out of the unit and communication with staff will be improved.

"Nobody comes to work in the morning looking for trouble," he said.

"People are trying to do their work — it's really up to us to provide that direction, that positive leadership and the training that is needed in order to enhance the abilities of our staff."

Blame can be shared

The CEO said the code of ethics and the social media policy for employees will also be clarified along with policies outlining expectations for the work environment.

"Employees have told us they would really like these to be the framework by which everybody is going to work —inappropriate language will not be tolerated ... so we're very happy with the commitment that the employees have done in the last two meetings."

​The investigation found all employees in the unit at the Chaleur Regional Hospital shared some responsibility for the deterioration of the work environment.

"So what this says is that at times we have not been as good as we should have been in that area," Lanteigne said. 

"There are new people taking leadership positions and we'll make sure that they're supported."

Paula Doucet, president of the New Brunswick Nurses Union, declined to comment for this story.

Robert LeMoignan of CUPE said he is involved in meetings with employees and will be prepared to comment on the investigation and the recommendations later in the week.

With files from Information Morning Moncton