Acting top arts, union wants to solve ‘toxic’ workplace fears in health department

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London’s medical officer on duty says the public health unit is doing everything it can to build a positive work environment, amid union allegations of a toxic workplace, the abrupt departure of its top doctors and the stress of the pandemic .

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Alex Summers, the acting medical officer of health for the Middlesex-London Health Unit, said staff had to deal with “enormous amounts of work and stress” amid the pandemic on Thursday, and efforts are being made to improve the atmosphere in the workplace. improve.

“We have continued to proactively understand and respond to our workforce’s emerging stressors through ongoing, weekly meetings with our union partners,” Summers said. “It is a difficult and ongoing challenge to balance the demands of this virus with the understandable fatigue we all feel in all parts of public health and the healthcare system.”

The health unit has nearly tripled its workforce to support the pandemic response, Summers said. It has also increased the amount employees can claim for mental health support through their terms of employment.

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“The Middlesex-London Health Unit is a workplace that cares for each other and for our community,” Summers said. “This is a workplace focused on kindness and understanding.”

Summers’ statement comes a day after the head of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 101, which represents about 300 health unit employees, told The Free Press that its members “constantly” expressed concern about a toxic workplace, but feared. to proceed with formal complaints of fear of retaliation.

Steve Holland said pandemic-related burnout is a major problem among regular health unit staff, but it is “optimistic” that workplace atmospheres can be improved.

“I think, from whoever, Dr. Summers has worked (on this topic) and he seems to really care. . . . Everyone seems to think highly of Dr. Summers and I’m going to trust and hope he’s going to do what he says he’s going to do,” Holland said Thursday.

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“I like to think we can all work together to make this a better work environment.”

On Wednesday, London News Today reported that health officer Chris Mackie, who is now on leave, was the subject of complaints about workplace behaviour. Anonymous and mostly former health unit employees claimed a toxic work environment led by Mackie.

the health unit should not confirm the existence of the complaints or provide details. Public health officials declined to comment on Mackie’s leave on Thursday, as it was a confidential personnel matter.

Members of the health unit’s board of directors contacted by The Free Press on Thursday also declined to comment.

The health unit suddenly revealed last week that Mackie was on leave in a one-sentence press release. His last appearance at the health unit’s biweekly COVID-19 media briefings was on October 21. Mackie was replaced as president and chief executive of the health unit in July 2020, but remained the medical officer of health until his leave.

jbieman@postmedia.com

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