Picketing OPSEU members got a partial result for their efforts outside the Oshawa Health Centre on August 27.
Medical office assistants at the Oshawa Health Centre were calling for the medical clinic’s owner to reveal his plans for the future of services offered at the clinic after it formally closes at the end of September.
Dr. Adrian Pettyan, who says he owns the clinic, had been adamant patients were not being “abandoned,” but could not say earlier in the week where the clinic’s health practitioners would move their practices.
Pettyan told the news media yesterday that he expects most of the doctors will make lease arrangements to continue working out of the facility at the corner of Adelaide and Simcoe Streets.
The statement was not a surprise for the union, who knew that Pettyan would want to fill the space of the closed clinic as owner of the building. It still raises questions as to what primary care services will remain within the vacated clinic, and whether the remaining doctors will do the right thing and invite back the workers and their union.
Jim Freeman, President of the Durham Labour Council, told the picketers Dr. Pettyan’s dismissal of the workers amounts to “union busting.”
With a long labour history, Oshawa residents may want to first see how the doctors respond to the dismissed workers before returning to the restructured clinical practices.
The dismissal of the unionized assistants comes at a time when their doctors’ own bargaining representatives, the Ontario Medical Association, is trying to challenge the province’s cuts to their fee schedule.
Despite the cuts to their fees, doctors remain a significant occupation within the top 1 per cent of Canadian earners, whereas the medical lab assistants at the Oshawa medical clinic were earning slighty more than minimum wage.
The workers are hoping that a new ownership structure can still be worked out at the clinic to allow them to return to their jobs in October.
On Tuesday the Oshawa Health Centre put out its own release to say “all practitioners (to our knowledge) are going to continue to treat and care for their patients at locations of their choosing.” There was no indication at that time whether that meant patients had to travel far or simply show up at the same location they always have.
For the past week Dr. Pettyan has been coy about the future of the clinic. Last week he posted a notice to say it was closing, a few days later took it down and said he was retiring and it was up to patients to ask their health practitioner about continuity of care.
Last week Pettyan had also written a personal letter to the OPSEU-represented medical office assistants to give them notice that the clinic was closing as of October 2012 and that their jobs were being terminated as a result of his impending retirement. At the time he made no offer of severance for those who completed their notice period.
Two of the seven doctors in the clinic have said they will be moving to the already unionized Glazier Medical Centre in downtown Oshawa.
At least two of the clinic doctors have sent letters to patients to say that they will now remain at the Simcoe and Adelaide address operating a solo practice.
The 15 medical office assistants joined OPSEU in June prior to any discussion of the clinic’s closure.