Owen Sound Council Not Getting Involved In Health Care Strike

Owen Sound Family Health Organization RN Kiff Harvey (r) along with RPN's at Owen Sound Council. (Photo by Kirk Scott)

Strikers at the Owen Sound Family Health Organization got no help from Owen Sound council.

Councillors said no to their plea for assistance.

30 OPSEU staff at the doctor-owned organization have been on strike since May 22.

When contract talks resumed last week, OPSEU negotiators were surprised when told the organization planned to lay off its one registered nurse, nine registered practical nurses and five clerical staff.

That was a shock to the one RN, Kiff Harvey. She’s worked for the same doctor for 24 years.

“I didn’t cry for about 24 hours because I just couldn’t believe that they would do that,” says Harvey.

The staff are to be replaced by what are being called Medical Office Assistants. Harvey worries the replacements will be inadequately trained.

“I think that the people in Owen Sound and surrounding area that have doctors here really should have quality health care. They’ve got their physicians that’s wonderful but behind the scenes, the nurses and clerical staff are really the backbone.”

Harvey, along with a number of the RPNs appeared at Owen Sound council. They asked council to write a letter of support to the Family Health Organization and the Minister of Health. Owen Sound deputy mayor Arlene Wright said no, council will not get involved.

In an e-mailed release, Family Health Organization Executive Director Karen Smith Turner says during the strike they’ve “determined that the previous processes were inefficient. Certain tasks have become redundant and no longer required to be performed. Other tasks are more appropriately performed by classifications with more suited skill sets. This will result in the hiring of new employees and the displacement of others.”

Sylvia Moss, 91, supports the strikers. She’s been seeing doctors affiliated with the Family Health Organization for 30 years. She’s worried laying off nurses in Owen Sound will set a precedent elsewhere in the province.

“And maybe the nursing profession will become just as relevant as the Morse Code operator. It’s the Wal-Mart approach.”