Recognized as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2019):
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Dec 6, 2018)
Here are some of the reasons why Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences was selected as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2019):
- Ontario Shores provides maternity and parental leave top-up payments for employees who are new mothers (to 93% of salary for up to 31 weeks) as well as parental leave top-up for fathers and adoptive parents (to 93% of salary for 15 weeks)
- Ontario Shores encourages ongoing employee development with tuition subsidies for courses taken at outside institutions along with a variety of in-house and online training programs
- Ontario Shores employees can take advantage of a number of onsite amenities, including a cafeteria (with subsidized meals, healthy and special diet menus), various lounge spaces (with pool tables, a bowling alley and other games), and a fitness facility with instructor-led yoga classes and employee-only hours
Openness and kindness are key at Ontario Shores
The patient liked fashion magazines. She would roam the halls of the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby asking if anyone had copies they could bring in for her. "She would even go up to the CEO's office and ask if they had any magazines, and they would keep them for her when she came by," recalls Barbara Murray, a Forensic Case Manager at the hospital, which provides assessment and treatment for people with complex and serious mental illness.
"So it's very much an open-door environment where everyone knows the names of patients who are friendly like that, and where we don't have those boundaries that are typical of most organizations," says Murray. "Even the support staff, the cleaning staff, want to help and come up with little ways to do so. I've actually had patients say the best person to talk to was someone on the cleaning staff."
For Murray, who helps patients nearing the end of their hospital treatment transition to the community, that openness and kindness are central to the Ontario Shores' mission and generate esprit de corps. "At the heart of our culture is compassion and caring for people who are significantly disadvantaged in our society," confirms President and CEO Karim Mamdani. "Our staff are very, very special that way."
That compassion is coupled with innovation, he adds. "We give people the opportunity to be creative, to take on risks, and we're prepared to support that. We were the first organization in Canada to become fully electronic, in 2014, and that came from the creativity of our people. We offer a portal that allows patients to have access to their health information." Having digitized records, he says, also allows Ontario Shores to "guide the care provided by our clinicians and standardize that care."
"We're also using different technologies to assist people suffering from mental illness," he continues. "It could be through something like telemedicine - they can use phones, screens or virtual-care modules besides receiving face-to-face care. In addition, we have worked with our clinicians to find the best evidence throughout the world for the treatment of certain conditions, and then we have embedded all of those things into the way we provide care."
Ontario Shores, which celebrates its centenary next year, also has developed an extensive wellness program for employees, which recently won the hospital gold-level status from Excellence Canada. It includes a cafeteria that serves healthy, delicious, made-from-scratch meals, a fitness centre, and a gym where employees can participate in a variety of sports. The hospital has also adopted the Mental Health Commission of Canada's National Standard on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.
Other benefits include top-up payments for new parents - 93 per cent of salary for 31 weeks for mothers and the same percentage for fathers and adoptive parents for up to 15 weeks. Ontario Shores also offers job-shadowing, a variety of training opportunities and generous tuition subsidies. And it hosts myriad celebratory events to show appreciation of staff and foster collegiality.
Murray benefited from the tuition perk during her studies for a Certificate in Psychosocial Rehabilitation. She also took a leadership program called Leading Edge that she says helped her focus her skills and become a mentor to others.
But one aspect of Ontario Shores she particularly appreciates is the fact that compassion extends to colleagues, not just patients. Several years ago, her manager noticed that she was limping and encouraged her to see her doctor.
In the end, Murray underwent a knee replacement. Before the surgery, she says, "my manager took the time to find out what they could do to make getting around easier for me. After the operation I was at home for four months; it was winter and I was kind of isolated. Both my manager and the employee health department made frequent calls to see how I was doing."