Tuesday, October 26, 2021

October 20 2021

Culture shift in government a difficult, but needed change

Still early in its mandate, Tim Houston’s Progressive Conservative government has made some impressive moves in delivering on its promises. That includes Nova Scotia expanding patient transfer services to relieve pressure on the emergency health system and paramedics.

And, in late September, the government said it will invest an initial $1.3 million to support Nova Scotia Health to expand the VirtualCareNS pilot program to Central and Eastern zones beginning in December. This will ensure every person on the waitlist for a doctor has access to care while recruitment efforts are proceeding.

The Tories ran on healthcare change and voters welcome early action to make change happen. More change is needed, of course – including in other areas. How government takes meaningful action in the months ahead will confirm for voters whether they made the right choice on election day.

In addition to the needed policy and program changes, we see a real need for a culture change in some areas of the provincial bureaucracy. This need is highlighted in our page one story this week about Nicole Gnazdowsky suing the Nova Scotia government for negligence relating to the death of her brother at a Nova Scotia Power (NSP) reservoir in Sheet Harbour a year ago. Andrew Gnazdowsky drowned while working at a dam in the Marshall Falls waterbody near Sheet Harbour on October 16, 2020.

In terms of the lawsuit, it probably didn’t have to come to this. Ms. Gnazdowsky told this paper she didn’t want to go this route. She just wanted answers and some assurance that measures would be taken to ensure this kind of accident wouldn’t happen again. But, at every turn, she’s hit a brick wall. As a result, she’s been critical of the system in media interviews and social media posts.

Ms. Gnazdowsky recently shared an example of what she has faced in communications from the government. A monthly update on behalf of the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Department of Labour, Skills and Immigration advised her that because she has “indicated that these updates are not meeting with your satisfaction… this will be our final correspondence with you until the investigation is concluded.”

So, because Ms. Gnazdowsky is unsatisfied with the updates she has been getting, the government has decided they won’t give her any updates at all. In what world does this make sense?

Ms. Gnazdowsky has, understandably, frequently emailed or called department and elected officials. She lost her only sibling in a workplace accident and wants information. She needs to get the answers she seeks and should be treated with respect by those fielding her inquiries. Answers may not always be readily available, but respect and kindness should be.

These kinds of stories point to a cultural problem in at least some areas of the provincial bureaucracy. The new government would be wise to take a close look at where cultural change is needed and how it can be addressed – and soon. Such shifts don’t happen overnight, but the new government’s success will be hampered if a culture that allows this kind of response to a citizen in Ms. Gnasdowskyi’s position is allowed to continue and grow.