Nurses, doctor butt heads at Toronto hospital

Hospital failed to respond to violent behaviour: Union

The union representing employees at William Osler Health System in Toronto accused the hospital of failing to provide a safe and harassment-free work space, but an arbitrator has dismissed the case.

The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) filed a grievance against the hospital after the relationship between staff physician Vidia Persad and certain members of the nursing staff soured over a number of years.

The hospital called in an investigator from the Rubin Thomlinson firm in 2013, whose several hundred-page report identified significant concerns about Persad’s conduct.

Management at the hospital took serious steps to deal with Persad, but details of those steps were not divulged at the hearing.

Neither the union nor the affected nurses were informed, nor had Persad been advised in a timely manner, that the complaints had been made about her in the first place. The nurses continued to believe Persad’s behaviour had not changed and felt let down by the hospital.

Both parties attended interim award hearings prior to the final, with the employer asking for evidence to back up the union’s claim. For this, the final hearing, the hospital said the union could not provide sufficient evidence and therefore the grievance should be dismissed.

The ONA on the other hand said the Rubin Thomlinson report clearly showed Persad demonstrated violent and disruptive behaviour and that the hospital failed to adequately respond to it.

Arbitrator James Hayes sided with the hospital and dismissed the grievance, but said the particulars posed a tough situation.

"This is an unfortunate case," Hayes said. "Certain nurses feel profoundly aggrieved that they have been let down by their employer. Dr. Persad certainly feels that she has been victimized in that she has done everything asked of her by the hospital."

Hayes added that the hospital did a great deal to improve a difficult situation.

"The union has had ample time to focus the litigation but has not done so. Adequate particulars of misconduct said to state a case of workplace harassment were not provided," he said. "The nurses may be of the view that the Thomlinson report, standing alone, should be adequate notice of the case to be met.

"But that is not how matters such as these are tried, nor is it what was directed, on consent, in the two interim awards."

Such events would need to meet the threshold to establish a prima facie case of workplace harassment. As it was not, Hayes dismissed the grievance.

Reference: William Osler Health System and the Ontario Nurses’ Association. John D’Orsay for the union, Robert Weir for the hospital. James Hayes — arbitrator. Oct. 8, 2015.

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