Workers' compensation rates are going up again next year for the long-term care and home-care sectors, but the CEO of the board says there are reasons to hope that trend could change.

The Workers' Compensation Board of Nova Scotia released its 2018 assessment rates on Tuesday and once again, rates are up — by seven per cent for long-term care and 11 per cent for home care.

Stuart MacLean said three of 10 workplace injuries in Nova Scotia that cause people to miss work happen in the health-care sector.

'Not sustainable'

"If that sector has 20 per cent of the payroll and 30 per cent of the claims, that speaks volumes just right there," he said. "That's not sustainable and it's high cost."

Despite the disturbing trend, MacLean said work by a group comprised of participants in the sector is reason for optimism.

For the last six months, five subcommittees involving the WCB, Nova Scotia Health Authority, Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, home-care providers and others have been looking at ways to improve the system.

Change will cost money

Nurses' union president Janet Hazelton said "everyone is definitely on the same page, without exception."

"There's no one that doesn't see that there's a need for this work to be done. But, like everything, there's not a recommendation that's not going to cost money."

Among those recommendations, Hazelton hopes, will be a call for increased staffing levels.

Janet Hazelton Nurses Union

Nova Scotia Nurses' Union president Janet Hazelton says an increase in staffing levels would help reduce workplace injuries in the health-care sector. (CBC)

Nursing ratios haven't changed in 30 years, she said — something particularly relevant given the way severity of illness has increased through the years. People are sicker, heavier and more difficult to move, said Hazelton.

"Everyone knows that nobody goes into a long-term care facility in this day, in 2017, unless they're pretty much dependent on someone to give them care," she said.

"Everyone in long-term care requires significant physical care and our staffing hasn't changed."

Long-term savings

While there's a cost associated with change, Hazelton said the province already spends $60 million a year on workers compensation payments in health care, so it would make much more sense to spend that money on helping people stay safe and healthy.

"It doesn't matter what it's going to cost. We can't keep injuring people at the rate we're injuring them."

MacLean said he now sees long-term care and home care the way he once did fishing: as the industry with the most room for improvement.