Toronto East General Hospital: “Dreaming, Believing, Achieving”

Eighty years young, the Toronto East General Hospital has been exceptionally well recognized both within and outside the hospital community for its many accomplishments. Strong leadership, purpose, and partnership with its insurer and others have enabled it to do things most other cash-strapped hospitals could not. It has also ensured strong linkage between its health and social programming and its overall corporate objectives. Well beyond its fitness facility, TEGH helps its staff look after themselves, and managers look after their people. Exceptional personal performance is routinely recognized; not surprisingly, high staff satisfaction scores follow. Lower disability rates and higher attendance are the icing on the cake.
Toronto East General Hospital (TEGH) is a 515-bed community hospital with 2,600 full and part time staff.
We know health-focused companies often provide health promotion programs, carefully manage absence and disability, and strive for good outcomes. Others get there by using approaches that are primarily social in purpose and encourage personal interaction. The Toronto East General Hospital covers both bases.

Relationships Matter

One hallmark is its collaborative approach. TEGH has been with its insurer (Standard Life) for 23 years. They’ve undertaken three detailed disability and medical claim trend analyses, and worked together to manage the absence and disability program. “It’s our objective to become a specialized extension of the HR department of our clients”, says Christine Potvin, Vice President, Disability Risk Management, Health and Wellness, Standard Life. “Our success is based on communication and relationship.” For example, the Standard Life disability case manager has been working with TEGH for five years, so she is well-versed in the hospital’s culture and needs.
The importance of relationship is fundamental between employer and employees. Operating 24-7, the hospital routinely adapts daytime offerings for its evening and night-shift personnel. The hospital also makes a point of listening – staff satisfaction surveys are done quarterly, and it has conducted several wellness surveys. It also includes many focus groups during its triennial review of human resources strategy.
TEGH also works with its employee assistance plan provider to develop and regularly deliver lunchtime health education programs.

Role Modeling

Recognition and profile have also been important drivers of their overall wellness plan. As you might

expect, it begins at the top: their CEO makes personal donations to wellness, and is Co-Chair of the Workplace Violence Prevention Committee. Is this really a CEO role? Yes, because he uses it to set an example of care and commitment for the organization, and for the hospital sector at large. A vice president is also a Committee member and the general sponsor of the wellness plan. This senior leadership support reinforces a philosophy that allows employees to accomplish routine work, while also respecting their personal and family needs.
Critically important for hospitals, TEGH has had good support from one of their main unions – a head office representative of the provincial nurse association is a member of their Workplace Violence Prevention Committee, and local stewards are also personally committed.

Staff Satisfaction Survey – Selected Results






ON Hospital Avg.


Recognition/Support for Work Role





Personal Security/Safety





Proud to Say Part of Organization





Positive/Fun work environment





Overall Employee Satisfaction – Commitment






Innovation is Alive and Well

Nancy Casselman, Director, Human Resources & Organizational Quality, Safety & Wellness at TEGH explains their approach: “We believe a safe and healthy workplace promotes staff satisfaction, assists in attracting and retaining excellent staff, and contributes to a work environment that supports hospital objectives.” In 2008, TEGH won the Canada Award for Excellence, Gold Level, the first acute care hospital to be recognized for outstanding performance in Quality and Healthy Workplace. That same year, TEGH also won the Healthy Hospitals Innovator Award from the Ontario Hospital Association.
A new Compassion Fatigue Program will help resolve the deep physical and emotional exhaustion experienced by some staff. CF is an occupational hazard that is “the cost of caring” for others, and is characterized by a diminished ability to feel empathy.
TEGH started a new campaign to encourage staff to look after themselves. It’s called “I care for me”. The campaign words are spelled backwards on t-shirts and so only readable when reflected in a mirror.
Accountability Awards is a peer recognition program for exemplary behaviour based on hospital Success Factors, Values, and Core Service Standards. There is also an Employee of the Month award, and TEGH provides gift cards to those with perfect attendance and long service. A variety of “fun” staff appreciation events run regularly.

Health Options

Following review, the hospital concluded that prevention and disability management needed more attention, and especially mental health and cardiovascular disease. TEGH’s expanding wellness program now has a broad approach that includes mind, body, spirit, and work culture initiatives.
The hospital’s fitness facility is open all the time and includes a cardio and weight room, a walking circuit, bikes, and a wide variety of classes and teams. Programs are promoted through a wellness newsletter, and each year, there is a Wellness Roadshow and a wellness week. A no-cost, on-site physiotherapist helps staff maintain optimal health. There is discounted massage, acupuncture, and Shiatsu therapy on-site for all employees.

Since front-line managers have a huge impact on absence and disability, they now receive training to observe employee behaviour, look for danger signs, and intervene as warranted. This has helped demystify mental health issues, promote health and wellness programs, and improve work/life balance.

Working simultaneously on prevention, effectively managing disabilities, and facilitating early and safe return to work of employees has helped take LTD rates below 50% of peer hospitals. Other results are also impressive: Attendance has improved over 20% during the last three years, and health and LTD claims are substantially below the benchmark of other hospitals in the region.

Last Words

We know hospitals generally give good care, and have high patient satisfaction scores. It’s comforting to know that Toronto East General Hospital has back-stopped those core care giving responsibilities with an organizational commitment to their staff and community, as well as their patients.

Managing Behaviour

TEGH has developed several human resources policies to address conflicts. They have found that improved personal security scores contribute to better mental health and lower stress.
1. Civil and Respectful Workplace – Interactions, communications and dealings are polite, supportive, civil, constructive and respectful.
2. Code of Conduct – Employees and volunteers shall perform their duties and functions impartially, responsibly, diligently, efficiently, with integrity, and in a manner that bears public scrutiny.
3. Harassment and Discrimination Prevention – TEGH is committed providing a work environment that:
Is conducive to personal and professional growth, dignity and self-esteem.
Ensures all patients and staff are treated with dignity and respect.
• Guarantees equality of treatment and opportunity.
Controls favouritism or other abuses of power, and is free from any form of harassment or discrimination.
4. Workplace Violence Prevention – At no time will staff, physicians, volunteers, patients, and visitors be exposed to violent, abusive, or aggressive acts.
5. Whistleblower Policy – This confidential and anonymous service allows employees to communicate theft, fraud, and illegal practices.


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