By Jane Edgett
Jane Edgett is a former Respiratory Therapist who worked at the Red Deer Regional Hospital in the province of Alberta, Canada. She was denied workers compensation for debilitating stress caused by excessive workload. She subsequently became a founding member of the Canadian Injured Workers Society and maintains their website.
During the last few of the 12 years I worked for the David Thompson Health Region (DTHR), my workload increased dramatically due to staff cuts. I was, simultaneously:
• sole employee in charge of ALL anaesthesia assistance to a 7-theatre operating suite (including attendance at high risk births)
• supervisor and sole quality control operator of the Blood Gas Lab for an over-800-bed health region
• assisting in bronchoscopies
• assisting in the Intensive Care Unit with patients on ventilators
• assisting in Emergency at intubations, etc.
I ‘burned out’. I suffered severe depression due to chronic stress that was PROVEN by an independent psychologist to be SOLELY related to work stressors. (There were no personal stressors). The psychologist stated in writing that,
“The work related events were excessive or unusual in comparison to the normal pressures and tensions experienced by the average worker in a similar occupation” and “Work related events or stressors were the predominant cause of the injury.”
When I was refused compensation by the Alberta Workers Compensation Board (WCB), I lost my job, my home, and was forced into bankruptcy.
John Vogelzang, CEO of the David Thompson Health Region in Red Deer, did nothing to help me attain either compensation or revised work duties under their “Duty to Accommodate” an injured employee.
I wrote to Jean Graham, Chair of the DTHR health region board, and copied my letter to the board, outlining all the problems including:
• an unusually heavy workload over many years
• the ‘toxic’ psychosocial environment resulting from the supervisors’ callous disregard for employee stress factors (I was not the only one complaining. Most of my coworkers also documented complaints.)
• the intolerable stress of management repeatedly forcing me into situations that endangered patients and violated my professional ethics.
Graham wrote back, warning me that it is “inappropriate” to “challenge the authority” of the senior management and threatening me with litigation saying that my allegations were “unfounded”, “inaccurate” and “possibly defamatory.” There was no evidence that she investigated any of my allegations.
Well, it seemed to me that when the ‘management’ of a health region ignores reports of wrongdoing, mismanagement and danger to patients . . . well . . . maybe their actions SHOULD be questioned. So I went to the provincial government and advised them that my warnings of possible danger to patients were being ignored by the health region.
The Premier, Ralph Klein, and his “Progressive” Conservative government just passed the buck. All I got was a few sentences from Clint Dunford (then Minister in charge of WCB) telling me to go back to WCB, which had refused my compensation in the first place!
The Minister of Health at the time, Gary Mar, pleaded impotence, saying he had “no jurisdiction over the employment issues described.”
Alberta used me to wipe out its deficit through staffing cuts. It also used me to advance private health care by creating a staffing ‘crisis’ in the public system.
Then Alberta threw me away, into the garbage.