North York General puts software in charge of staffing, payroll

One of Canada’s largest hospitals began rolling out a workforce management tool that automates staffing and payroll for 3,000 unionized and administrative staff, helping to reduce errors and enhance patient care.

North York General Hospital in Toronto is currently in the process of implementing Kronos for Healthcare workforce management software with its existing human resources and payroll systems. Based in Mississauga, Ont., Kronos Canadian Systems Inc. has tailored its workforce automation tool for other industries including retail, manufacturing and government.

The hospital will roll out the full implementation to its four sites located in the Toronto area by the beginning of December. It has currently completed 40 per cent of the project. Like many hospitals, North York was using a paper-based system that required multiple staff entering data and paper time cards that had to be physically transported to a site where were collated, processed and entered into a system to generate cheques, said Malik Jadavji, the hospital’s project coordinator.

“There were inherent risks built into the paper-based process that we had been using for years that we feel we’ve eliminated by going electronic,” said Jadavji. With the new system in place, hospital managers have much better reporting capabilities such as the ability to look up how much sick time employees took in a particular month, for example.

In addition to time and labour savings, the system helps to eliminate union-related grievances by recognizing and monitoring multiple employee qualifiers such as seniority, collective agreements, hours worked and leave entitlement.

“The system adheres exactly according to our union regulations and our collective agreements,” said Jadavji. “We’re talking about complete equity across the board for all of our staff.”

Jadavji said the system will address common union grievances such as a staff member who questions why he or she wasn’t called for the shift first based on his or her qualifications.

Despite the ability to automate these systems, scheduling staff continues to be a pressing issue facing health care organizations today, said Catherine Knipe, national industry consultant, health care, Kronos Canada. Not only do hospital managers have to consider a 24-hour work schedule, a variety of skillsets, union regulations and collective agreements, they also face nursing shortages and tight budgets when scheduling staff.

“It sounds simple to get the right person at the right time at the right place on the right floor, but it’s actually a fairly complex process,” said Knipe.

The Kronos software addresses this problem by automating the process to generate schedules based on what skills, floors, union agreements a particular employee has, Knipe added. The schedule is then automatically fed into payroll.

“From a management point of view what you have is much better information on a timely basis to make the staffing decisions, to see how you’re running against budget and to see if you have any areas that you need to address in the short term,” said Knipe.

Putting the control in the hands of the managers leaves more time for hospital staff to attend to their first priority – the patients.

“Right now health care organizations need every penny and every bit of time that they can in a patient facing mode,” said Knipe. “You’re able to free up capacity and money without affecting programs or staff. They have more time and money to direct towards patient care services.”

North York is also working on implementing a workload system that Jadavji said will eventually be integrated with the Kronos software to provide the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care with the number of hours worked for certain labour accounts.

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