2013 CAE Recipient Profile - Central Health

Four regional health authorities (RHAs) deliver healthcare services in Newfoundland and Labrador. Central Health is the second largest health region in the province, serving a population of approximately 94,000 and employing over 3000 staff. Central Health services a diverse geographical area that encompasses more than half of the total land mass of the island. Within the region, Central Health is responsible for the delivery of an array of primary, secondary, long-term care, community health, and secondary services. These services are provided in 40 sites through a number of health centres, long-term care (LTC) facilities, and two regional referral centres.

The Employee Wellness/Health and Safety division of Central Health was established in 2006, shortly after regional health authorities were formed in the province. This division has a mandate to provide direction to all employees of Central Health on their rights and responsibilities under such provincial legislation as Occupational Health and Safety  and Workers’ Compensation. Overall, this division provides services to ensure the health and safety of all employees and to promote individual and organizational wellness. One initiative of this division was the establishment of the Workplace Wellness Committee. Launched in 2011, this committee represents numerous and diverse program areas within the organization and is co-lead by the coordinator of employee assistance programming and the Regional Mental Health Promotion Consultant from Mental Health and Addiction Services. The committee recognizes a healthy organization as “one in which employers and employees collaborate regularly in the utilization of a continual improvement process to protect and promote the health, safety and well-being of all workers and the sustainability of services” (WHO, 2011). Its mandate is to examine ways in which wellness is currently being promoted throughout Central Health and build capacity among its stakeholders to launch health and wellness initiatives throughout the region. 

Shortly after its formation, the Workplace Wellness Committee learned of a national pilot project involving the promotion of mental health in the workplace. Having already had discussion on the upcoming national standard for psychological safety in the workplace being launched by the Mental Health Commission of  Canada and its importance to organizational wellness, the committee explored this opportunity to highlight the importance of mental wellbeing within Central Health.  The committee recognized that workplace strategies that integrate mental health promotion with job stress intervention hold particular promise in building a healthy workplace, as they address mental health problems regardless of cause, while simultaneously reducing work-related factors contributing to ill mental health. Acknowledging that it is good business to have employees who are psychologically healthy and safe, Central Health’s Senior Leadership Team gave the green light for the organization to participate in Excellence Canada’s Mental Health at Work pilot project.  

Central Health achieved Level 1 certification in the Mental Health at Work pilot project in December 2011.  This achievement reflected a commitment to fostering a workplace where employees are psychologically safe and mentally healthy.  Commitment was demonstrated through a number of Central Health initiatives including its respectful workplace program and the development of an organizational wellness framework. The CEO, on behalf of the senior leadership team, also signed a set of psychological safety principles for the organization.


From 2012-2013, Central Health’s  work for Level 2 of the project has built on the commitment and foundation demonstrated in Level 1. To oversee this phase of the project, a working group was established to develop a strategic and operational plan to address employee mental health. The group consists of employee and management representation, as well as stakeholders from key departments such as Human Resources, Employee Wellness/ Health and Safety, and Mental Health and Addiction Services. One of the initial steps of Level 2 was to benchmark the current psychological health and safety of Central Health, as perceived by its employees. This was achieved by administering the PSR-12 Survey from Guarding Minds @ work to establish a baseline indicator of employee mental wellbeing.  


Data provided by this assessment identified risk factors within Central Health that threaten employee psychological safety and produced information that will be used to develop plans to address these issues and promote improved employee mental health and wellbeing. Currently, Central Health is working on a communications plan to disseminate the data from the PSR-12 throughout the organization.  Before results are shared, consultation will be held with various key stakeholders; including a working group that is presently working on action plans to address concerns identified in previous organizational assessments (e.g., cultural assessment, work/ life, and patient safety assessments). A preliminary review of the data suggests that challenges identified in previous organizational surveys are also reflected in the PSR-12 survey results.


            In creating action plans for Level 2, the working group for the mental health at work project considered the elements and priorities identified by the 2010 roundtable participants prior to development of the national standard on psychological health and safety. Top priorities included: management training; mental health and mental illness awareness; policies, programs, and procedures; and embedding mental health and psychological safety in occupational health and safety programs (Great-West Life Center for Mental Health in the Workplace, 2010). A multi-module training program for Central Health’s management group was launched in late 2012 based on the recommendations of the roundtable. Training is currently being developed and delivered by the co-leads of the Mental Health at Work working group.   Free resources that are currently available to organizations undertaking work in this area are being utilized such as; Psychological Health & Safety: An Action Guide for Employers (MHCC, 2012b); Working Through It (The Great-West Life Centre for Mental Health in the Workplace, 2012a); and Leader’s Guide to Managing Health Matters (Great-West Life Center for Mental Health in the Workplace, 2011). Action plans that accompany the PSR-12 survey from Guarding Minds @ Work will also help ensure concerns identified in Central Health’s PSR-12 survey are adequately addressed. Once management training is completed, these modules and additional resources will be utilized to offer education for frontline employees.

Our efforts to promote and protect mental health in the work environment were rewarded in March 2013 when Central Health received Level 2 certification for our involvement in Excellence Canada’s Mental Health at Work program.  As we begin work to achieve Level 3, priorities for future action include:


  • Recruit new committee members to oversee the project
  • Develop a mental health/psycholgical safety policy statement
  • Review and prioritize action plans
  • Disseminate data from PSR-12
  • Identify further priority areas for action planning
  • Continue development of management mental health training modules
  •  Explore training plan for frontline staff


For Central Health, the Mental Health at Work Project represents a collaboration of organizational stakeholders in a multi-year endeavor to protect and promote psychological safety. Employee health champions such as the Workplace Wellness Committee and the Mental Health at Work Project Committee recognize that significant reduction of risks to employee psychological wellbeing will require comprehensive change programs within the organization. . Moving forward, Central Health will focus on using evidence based resources that currently exist to plot its path to psychological health.