FOTKH, unions take aim at SBGHC


By Josh Howald

A jointly held press conference in Kincardine last week took aim at the South Bruce Grey Hospital Centre board and its CAO, Paul Davies.

Joining forces to take issue with labour conditions, among other issues, were representatives from the Friends of the Kincardine Hospital (FOTKH), the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC), The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) and the Grey-Bruce Labour Council.

The groups have combined in an effort to improve work conditions and employee morale within the SBGHC, as well they claim staff is being silenced by the board. The groups brought forward examples of labour violations, including the overruling of a doctor’s advice for time off – and want to meet with the board about a $10,000 consultant’s report on governance commissioned by the FOTKH.

And the FOTKH doesn’t believe the hospital board will be doing an about face.

“We really don’t anticipate them meeting with us any time soon,” said Ken Goldspink of the FOTKH.

SBGHC CAO Paul Davies said Thursday he wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about. He said as far as he knows, employee morale is fine – and the board has already discussed the Schroeder report, a $10,000 study commissioned by the FOTKH.

“It’s a matter of public record that we did meet with Barb Fisher (of the FOTKH) about the Schroeder report at our April 23 meeting,” said Davies.

“She outlined all the major points in the report at that meeting in Durham.”

Davies said he wasn’t aware of what was discussed at the press conferences in Kincardine and Durham, but did say the board is, in fact, taking a look at the report and fully expects to make some bylaw changes in response.

The FOTKH, OHC and labour groups are not satisfied with that meeting. What they want is a full-on board to board meeting to discuss the issues in the report.

“If the hospital is not willing to talk to us and treat our members respectfully,” said Jim McIlwraith, chair of OPSEU’s Health Care Divisional Council, “we’re prepared to stand up for our members and promise to make this a truly hot summer for Paul Davies.”

The next step, says Goldspink, is a summer publicity campaign, which began in earnest with the pair of Thursday press conferences in Durham and Kincardine. A leaflet campaign is set for June 19 in Kincardine and other SBGHC locations.

“We extended an olive branch to the board in May with the report,” said Richard Janson, OPSEU campaigns officer. “We were ignored. The situation can’t get any worse, so it’s time to turn up the pressure.”

The groups also used the conference to rail against the incoming changes to food services at the SBGHC. Kitchens are being phased out, and reheatable meals are being brought in as a way to keep costs down by cutting staff. As part of this initiative, 12 SBGHC employees took voluntary exits. One staff member rescinded the agreement, but this hospital is hiring six more workers to fill the multi-site food preparation and cleaning positions. The groups also claim that Davies and president Dan Gieruszak have been bullying staff into silence. Only Davies and Gieruszak have been speaking with the media, not allowing employees to comment.

“It’s not unusual for the president and the CAO to be the ones dealing with the media,” said Davies.

OPSEU president Warren Thomas doesn’t think Davies really has the hospital’s best interests in mind.

“From the labour-relations standpoint, this is one of the worst hospital employers in Ontario,” said Warren Thomas, OPSEU’s president.