Health and Human Resources

Current issues in the newspaper refer to poor public health services, serious traffic congestion, spiralling crime rate and double digit inflation. What can we do as Human Resource Professionals to assist our employees in dealing with the current socio-economic conditions?

The newspapers have numerous articles on the public health care services in Trinidad, where citizens are reporting on the poor services received and the medical professionals reporting on the staff shortage, poor facilities, equipment and scarce resources and where the Government, by way of the Minister of Health has continued to debate these allegations.

In today’s Trinidad Daily Express (September 30th 2008), there are two articles that refer to poor health care. One article refers to lack of follow up when baby Justin Paul was burnt in his incubator at Mt Hope Maternity Hospital. Another article speaks to a young boy’s scholarship achievement and he attributes his inspiration and choice of study (maxillofacial surgery) to his brother who suffers with cerebral palsy. His brother has been placed on awaiting list for surgery for three years at Mt Hope, so he hopes to be qualified to reconstruct his brother’s jaw.

How do we protect our employees from suffering similar fate? Quite often, the view to these issues tend to be one-dimensional but it should be noted that a 360 approach may yield substantial results in the long term health of our employees.

We can explore making arrangements with private health institutions and our health insurance providers to ensure our employees get the care needed with the adequate health care coverage. We have negotiated to increase our major medical limit to five million renewable over three years. Also, review the preventative schedule of benefits to ensure adequacy and or acceptability against the premiums being paid. The key recommendation is to discuss needs and costs with the various stakeholders to get the best deal possible to assist employees in times of a medical emergency.

Another option is to organise a subsidised or free vaccination programme within your organisation for the employees. This may encourage employees to get vaccinated since they would not have to be inconvenienced to visit the local health centre and they can enjoy decreased costs or none at all. This preventative measure may result in decreased absenteeism levels.

We can also encourage our employees to live healthy lives to avoid lifestyle diseases. There are some diseases we may be predisposed too and others we may increase the probability of its occurrence when we smoke, drink alcohol excessively, lack of exercise, improper diet, excessive stress and the like. We can engage the services of a nutritionist and or a dietician to assist our employees and their families with eating right. We can also subsidise the fees to attend a local gym to encourage exercise.

An employee assistance provider (EAP) can also be quite helpful by targeting stress areas and also by providing therapy sessions on an individual basis for those that may need it. The EAP is a great network of resources that can be tapped to help improve our employee’s ability to capitalise on day to day character building opportunities.

Many articles have been written on the benefits of a mother’s breast milk to her baby; yet, we ask that our new mothers return to work after three months of giving birth. Returning to a workplace that provides a private area or at least twenty minutes to express breast milk would encourage a new mother to express milk to feed her baby and thus decrease the probability of partial or full transition to formula. Breast milk is said to improve the health of the baby and a healthy baby means that the mummy will spend less time worrying or by the Paediatrician and more productive time at the office. This may also re bound to the claims made against the company’s health plan and thus improves the claims loss ratio.

One final suggestion is a committee that is focussed on encouraging healthy lives, bodies and mind. At Guardian, we have a committee called “Life Pulse” and the committee promotes healthy living through hosting fun walks/runs, hosting various health weeks, where employees can get screened for specific illnesses, sight tests, cholesterol tests, blood sugar testing, blood pressure testing and the like.

The above are merely a few ideas and suggestions to provide care to our employees. The suggestions may serve to build employee commitment and engagement where employees exercise increasing levels of discretionary behaviour and result in improved productivity.

Denise Ali

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