Message from the Chair

Health care teams show up for us everyday. When we, or our families or friends, experience a medical crisis and are at our most vulnerable, the people working in healthcare fight for our survival, our recovery, our wellbeing. This message resonates more than ever for me: “Support our health care teams on the front lines. They’re there when you need them…now it’s your turn to be there for them.”  Inspiring words from the BC Professional Firefighters Burn Fund.

I’m honoured to have been appointed by Hon. Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, to chair the board of SWITCH BC – supporting Safety, Wellbeing, Innovation, Training and Collaboration in Healthcare.

SWITCH BC is a new organization with a governance model unique in B.C. and in Canada. The directors are partners representing unions, employers, and physicians. Representatives from the Ministry of Health and WorkSafeBC also sit on the board. Members work collaboratively to invest in and support province-wide programs and systems to promote safe, healthy, and resilient workplaces and to measure our healthy and safety performance as one system. And there is work for all of us to do.

WorkSafeBC reports the overall injury rate for the sector is twice the provincial average, the injury rate for health care aides is four times the provincial average and 40% of all mental health injury claims are healthcare related.

The challenges we are facing are complex. Concerns about funding – and underfunding; net migration – more people moved into B.C. in 2021 than at any other point over the last 60 years; an aging population and aging workforce; barriers to international recruitment; a burn out and exhaustion fuelled exodus – worsened by the pandemic. All real challenges. All worrying.  All impacting workplace health and safety.

I’d like to say a few words about what SWITCH BC has not been asked to do. SWITCH BC has not been asked to step into the shoes of employers, unions and physicians who are working flat out to champion injury prevention and improve the working lives of healthcare workers.

What we have been asked to do is play a leadership role in bringing together employers, unions and physicians to support and invest in provincial business intelligence that measures outcomes across the system; to promote provincial best practices that can be widely shared and implemented; to develop a provincial framework for mental health and psychological safety: to promote a provincial safety management system that integrates CSA standards. We believe by working within the collaborative model that SWITCH BC is founded on we can make progress together in these areas.

I’d like to share a couple of early examples of the kind of work SWITCH BC is doing:

  • As you know, every employer in BC with more than 20 employees must have a joint occupational health and safety (JOHS) committee – there are over 500 JOHS committees in the health authorities alone, but there is no provincial infrastructure for supporting committees, recording, and sharing their recommendations, and following up on recommendations across the sector. SWITCH BC is consulting broadly with healthcare partners to develop and manage an OHS (Occupational Health and Safety) Resource Centre with online tools and resources for JOHS committees across the sector. We will share more details as the Resource Centre is developed.
  •  I mentioned earlier that 40% of all mental health injuries are health care related. SWITCH BC has been asked by the Ministry of Health to coordinate the implementation of the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. Senior staff from SWITCH BC will engage leadership across the sector to accelerate implementation. Learn more about the standard here.

As we move forward, I hope you will continue to visit the website to find out more about the work of this organization and the excellent work being done across our province and throughout Canada as we share and promote best practices.

In closing, I want to express our gratitude to every member of every team working in healthcare for your dedication, courage, and perseverance. You constantly show up for us and you inspire us. The safer and healthier you are – the safer and healthier we are.


Roberta Ellis
SWITCH BC Board Chair