- Anne Finlay-Stewart, Editor

Every day of the week we receive a Covid-19 report from the Grey Bruce Health Unit. It is a template with the daily details filled in.

The template ends with “GBHU Team continue to ensure essential public health activities not related to COVID-19”.

The reason a significant number of identified health care professionals and more than 1400 of our neighbours have asked for a review of both the management and finances of the Public Health Unit is legitimate concern for the stability of just these activities and programs that protect our children, water, our vulnerable populations, and the long-term health of our communities.

The Hub's very first letter on the subject was not from a local lawyer or City councillor. It was from a health care worker who had voluntarily left a good-paying job she was proud of, serving her community alongside people she loved. We did not publish her letter right away, because she wanted anonymity. After a long conversation, and verification of the facts and risks with other sources, we agreed.

And the floodgates opened.

Messages, texts, phone calls and even the proverbial “plain brown envelopes” began arriving at the Hub. From the statement of claim in a lawsuit against the Unit by a senior staffer of 32 years, to the stories of experienced health care professionals who chose to quit or refused an offered contract renewal. Some were pages long documents; others hours-long conversations. A few stopped all communication, sending a message through others that they believed their work email was being monitored, and they were afraid I might try to contact them that way.

Signed non-disclosure, non-disparagement and even unusual HR clauses unique to our Health Unit are included in their contracts and agreements. A combination of honouring their signatures and fear of reprisals have kept most of these women from coming forward publicly.

The letter below was written by one woman. Nine others, all current and former staff at the Grey Bruce Health Unit, none of whom have legal actions against the GBHU, have identified themselves to us and agreed that this letter reflects their personal experience.

"I am frustrated with the Grey Bruce Health Unit Board of Health. I am frustrated with the City of Owen Sound. I am frustrated with Grey County Council.

I am frustrated with those who would silence critique and with all who are uncritically supporting Owen Sound’s “Top Doctor”. You could label me as just another of the “disgruntled” employees. In 2020, several of us were fired in the name of ‘cost savings’ and several more left as it became clear that they would be neither valued nor simply heard. Many of us still work at the health unit and continue to feel unheard and unvalued.

Unlike Councillor Tamming—who did not deserve to be threatened with violence by our Medical Officer of Health—I AM suggesting that Dr. Arra is not the hero he is making himself out to be. He is not a heroic figure leading the region through a pandemic, but a man whose leadership has led him to dismiss many staff with a wealth of public health knowledge and experience and pushed some beyond what they are willing to tolerate in the workplace.

Given that there was no HR Manager for the first few months of 2020, and none from mid-November to now, employees have had (and continue to have) no trusted method of recourse to have their concerns heard.

Experience has shown us that there can be no assumption that a conversation with the leader about his leadership style would not result in dismissal.

Moreover, with the Board’s staunch defence of their pick for Medical Officer of Health and continuing assertion that the Medical Officer of Health can do no wrong, there is obviously no recourse for employees were they to speak to the Board of Health directly.

Where, then, do we turn?

The reason we write anonymously is because we legitimately fear reprisal. The Medical Officer of Health openly shared in an all-staff meeting how he had gone to lengths to keep a former employee from working in her field.

Some of us have heard from credible local partners that the MOH has been critical of former and current employees to them. We legitimately fear reprisal.

So, go ahead and call us “disgruntled” thinking that that pejorative takes away our credibility. We are frustrated (synonym: disgruntled). We are beaten down.

Nearly everyone who has come to the defence of the Medical Officer of Health has been someone in a position of considerable political power or status and has almost certainly never had a meaningful conversation with a critic. Your minds are made up.

Consider this: has any one of those who left, even voluntarily, come to the defence of the Medical Officer of Health? Perhaps there is a reason for that."




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