When I read the news about a civil servant was fired after providing documents to a Radio-Canada journalist to denounce a situation he felt was unacceptable, I said to myself: Once again, a very bad message is being sent to public service employees who, as witnesses to abnormal and unacceptable situations, want things to change. Without getting into all the details of this case, it seems obvious to me that despite an Act to facilitate the disclosure of wrongdoings relating to public bodies that went into effect in May, 2017, “whistleblowers” are far from being really protected.
After the “sit-in” by the nurses in the Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont Emergency Department last week, among the many questions asked of me by media representatives, was often the one about reprisals. Will the employer punish these nurses for the spontaneous walkout? Fortunately, this hospital’s employer has not sanctioned or even threatened to do so. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Every day, healthcare professionals face deplorable events, but threats of reprisals are such that they rarely dare to denounce them. The “professional and employee” double status make disclosure even more dangerous. To prevent healthcare professionals from talking, employers use the duty of loyalty in some cases and in others, they outright threaten to file a complaint with their professional order. That is an attempt to keep them silent, when all they want in the end is to be able to provide quality, safe care to the public.
Whose interests are being served in keeping the healthcare professionals in such silence? Neither staff nor patients come out winners in such an omerta. The only interests served are those of the employers and government who are the ones really responsible for the unacceptable situations that currently exist in the health network.
The long saga of the CHSLD Denis-Benjamin-Viger should serve as a real eye-opener. The employers are not always at the service of the public and healthcare professionals. It has taken three years of individual, union and legal steps, public denunciations and tens of thousands of dollars to force an employer to put enough staff on duty to respond to patients’ needs.
The current government has to send a clear message to the institutions’ administrations. Threats and fear, to prevent the healthcare professionals from speaking out, is behaviour that will no longer be tolerated. And, by the way, disciplinary notices, suspensions or dismissals should be handed out to certain decision-makers who are clearly more concerned with their image than public interest!