Video of yesterday’s press conferences in Durham and Kincardine:
DURHAM/KINCARDINE—South Bruce Grey Health Centre is alienating both staff and community as it implements cuts to the four-site hospital in Grey and Bruce counties.
Community and labour groups are calling on the hospital board to listen to community concerns around a plan to dismantle the hospital’s kitchens and truck frozen pre-prepared meals into Ontario’s agricultural heartland.
“Food is such an important component of good health and can assist in the recovery process,” says Natalie Mehra, Director of the Ontario Health Coalition. “There is a growing movement in Canadian and U.S. hospitals towards fresh, local and sustainable foods. To bypass local farmers to bring in the cheapest processed food stripped of many of its nutrients creates waste and diminishes patient comfort and satisfaction.”
“If Paul Davies is expecting to leave a legacy behind, it will be one of chaos and confusion,” says Mary Ellen Pollard, Co-Chair of the Friends of the Kincardine Hospital. “The hospital board cannot ignore the fact that nearly three of every four Kincardine residents polled want to see their hospital taken out of the amalgamated South Bruce Grey Health Centre.”
The Friends group was recently rebuffed by the SBGHC board that ignored their request to a follow-up meeting over a $10,000 consultant’s report on governance commissioned by the community group. The report raises concerns about SBGHC’s board secrecy and the lack of two-way communications with staff and the community.
There is also growing discontent with labour management at the hospital over a botched process to offer exit packages and heavy-handed management tactics aimed at reducing sick days.
Staff morale at SBGHC is failing as the hospital stumbles through a plan to convert support staff into multi-site, multi-purpose workers. Initially expecting to eliminate the equivalent of 15 full-time equivalent jobs, the Centre offered voluntary exits and early retirements to 12 individuals. It has since asked individuals to take back the exit package and is hiring to replace many of the eleven individuals who are being severed at public expense. One employees has agreed to rescind the package.
There are also ethical concerns given the hospital is offering exit packages without an exit date, leaving the eleven workers dangling indefinitely for their severance.
“From a labour-relations standpoint, this is one of the worst hospital employers in Ontario,” says Warren (Smokey) Thomas,President of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. OPSEU represents administrative and support staff at the hospital. “There have been more than 40 grievances in the last two years, and we expect that figure could double in 2010.”
The union is upset that the hospital is overruling the advice of licensed physicians in making return to work decisions. A staff member who recently underwent surgery was told by her doctor that she shouldn’t return to work for 30 days. The hospital told her she must be back in 10 days.
Dave Trumble, President of the Grey Bruce Labour Council, has pledged support for a coalition campaign to pressure the hospital to listen to the communities it serves and to make peace with its workforce.
OPSEU wrote a letter to the CEO and Board Chair May 3rd offering to sit down and resolve the labour relations difficulties at the hospital. More than a month later the union has received no reply.