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Nurse sues GN, alleging harassment and wrongful termination

William Sibold says bullying began after he stood up for colleague; GN denies allegations

William Sibold hangs out with his dog in Resolute Bay during his time there in 2022. (Photo courtesy of William Sibold)

By Randi Beers

A former Resolute Bay nurse is suing the Government of Nunavut, alleging he was bullied by management to the point of having a mental health crisis, then wrongfully terminated as he tried to recover.

William Sibold, 35, filed a lawsuit with the Nunavut Court of Justice on April 25. His suit names the GN, the deputy minister of health, and Jennifer Berry, assistant deputy minister of health, as defendants.

None of Sibold’s allegations have yet been tested in court.

According to his statement of claim, Sibold, a registered nurse, was hired as a supervisor for health programs at Resolute Bay’s health centre in February 2022. The first 12 months of his tenure were under probation.

He said the first few months of his employment went well, but everything changed May 21, 2022, after he filed a harassment complaint on behalf of a colleague.

Micromanagement from Pangnirtung

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Sibold said his managers, who were based in Pangnirtung, suddenly started micromanaging his work. They required pre-approval for overtime but were not consistent or fair in handling those requests.

He said they called the health centre at the start of his shifts to check up on him. At one point, they asked for an audit of the narcotics in his health centre’s pharmacy.

Sibold’s employment agreement required everybody to be adaptable and exercise discretion, according to the statement of claim. Sibold also says his employment agreement included regular performance reviews, which he never received.

By June, Sibold went on stress leave for about a month. He also filed a harassment complaint and reached out to Berry, the assistant deputy minister of health, hoping she would intervene.

“She was never about helping me,” Sibold said, adding he and his lawyers filed requests under access to information legislation for Berry’s email correspondence regarding him.

“The ATIP documents show she was talking to directors about what they need to do, what they need to document, to avoid any claim or criticism from me.”

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A threat with a knife

The incident that led to Sibold’s termination later that summer involved a patient and that patient’s common-law partner.

In July, Sibold had agreed to provide medical care to a friend experiencing withdrawal symptoms from an opioid addiction until he could train another nurse to take on the file. It was a difficult case, Sibold said, because the patient’s spouse believed Sibold was romantically interested in the patient.

Sibold said he was trying to extricate himself from the situation in early August when he learned the man had stopped the addiction treatment that had been prescribed. Believing this was a safety issue, Sibold decided to intervene.

When he did, the man’s partner held a knife to Sibold’s throat.

“That was the incident where I was like, ‘I’m done,’” said Sibold in an interview with Nunatsiaq News.

“I can’t sleep, I’m anxious, I’m throwing up, this is a disaster.”

Sibold took a stress leave in mid-August. Before he left, he arranged for a social worker and police to check in on the patient and his spouse, because the pair had an infant and Sibold was concerned for their safety.

“I knew that this couple would be very angry that I reported,” Sibold said.

“When social workers and police went to them, [the woman] made allegations against me and so did he. They were not good things. They were serious allegations.”

He said the pair alleged Sibold prescribed drugs he was not allowed to prescribe, which made his patient “completely out of it.”

The woman also alleged Sibold was trying to steal her partner, and that he threatened to lock her up in a psychiatric institute. Later, she told police Sibold was part of a Russian mob.

‘Their actions made me sick’

When he arrived in Iqaluit on Aug. 15, Sibold spent about three days in hospital recovering from acute stress. In the meantime, the RCMP and the Registered Nurses Association of Northwest Territories and Nunavut opened an investigation into the complaint.

On Aug. 21, the Department of Health cancelled Sibold’s return to work and called him in to respond to the allegations made against him.

Sibold wrote back, expressing concern about the fact his dog and prescription medications were still in Resolute Bay.

“I didn’t get a reply, but I did get an email later — an auto-generated email that goes out when someone puts in an IT ticket, that says, ‘This employee will be terminated on this date at this time, please deactivate at this hour,” Sibold said.

“I forwarded it to HR and said, ‘OK, you’ve just confirmed what I suspected, that you made a decision without talking to me.’”

Sibold sat down with his bosses to respond to the allegations and received an official termination letter on Aug. 26.

Sibold’s medical team had come up with a long-term care plan to deal with the stress and anxiety issues he had developed during his time in Resolute Bay.

Now that he was terminated, Sibold said, he lost access to his insured medical care and ended up paying out of pocket.

“Their actions made me sick,” he said. “I have a diagnosis of PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. It’s been a very rough time.”

GN intends to fight lawsuit in court

RCMP have now closed their investigation into Sibold without laying charges, and Sibold said he is in talks with the nurses association to conclude that file.

Sibold, who now lives in Calgary, is seeking approximately $500,000 from the GN, which includes damages for what he says was a negligent investigation and wrongful termination, bad-faith conduct and lost benefits.

He says he wants to tell his story because he doesn’t believe he’s alone in what he experienced during his time working as a nurse in Nunavut.

“I believe [this] happens a lot more than we know,” Sibold said.

“It’s just like we’ve got a bunch of white people fighting with white people in management and money spent on a lawsuit that could have been spent way better otherwise.”

Health Minister John Main and Berry declined interview requests from Nunatsiaq News. Instead, they released a statement.

“The Government of Nunavut denies the allegations laid out in the statement of claim and will be defending this matter in court,” it states.

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(45) Comments:

  1. Posted by Person on

    Please do not respond to this article as you will get treated same .

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  2. Posted by James on

    Nothing new here. Bullying happens in every GN department in every community and, convincingly, to a higher degree than elsewhere. It’s often said that the GN has many, many people in management positions who are bullies. And they’re in Nunavut because they wouldn’t be tolerated in southern civil services.
    Look into it, reporters.

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    • Posted by Scrubs on

      Hell, I will provide proof to Nunatsiaaq if they reach out. I’ve been bullied to hell and back by GN management who thinks that ‘if you won’t extend your contract, you will be blacklisted’ is acceptable behavior.

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  3. Posted by Hinterland Who’s Who on

    If you are right in what you say then I wish you Good luck, William. Let the truth come out. I doubt anyone is surprised to hear this kind of story. I also doubt this is an anomaly.

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  4. Posted by Emily Drzymala on

    Thank you for standing up for justice William.

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  5. Posted by Nurse Anonymous on

    Great story, and entirely in line with that I’ve been witnessing happen in other Communities where the SHP dare even question the Directors. Coral, Kimmirut. Glad he spoke up. And when I met him he was a very decent and dedicated psych nurse, this is a loss for Nunavut. But to my fellow Nunavut Nurses, do not use your real name to comment! Otherwise you’ll be “next”…

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  6. Posted by Gord on

    So, let’s see. Based on this article the GN: required employee overtime to be pre-approved, checked in on the employee regularly when he was on the job, asked the employee to inventory dangerous drugs in a health center, and asked the employee to respond to serious allegations by patients for prescribing drugs incorrectly?

    On the face of it, that seems pretty darn reasonable to me. I absolutely feel for the employee going through the traumatic event in July, and support anyone getting the help they need. But, the other parts of the concern – at least as reported here — don’t suggest unreasonable actions by the GN to me.

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    • Posted by Kyle Tonga on

      You’ve got a point, but most workplace bullying is pretty passive aggressive and undercut. You’ve got to wonder if any investigation was done into that. And how well did they investigate the “serious allegations”, If he found out he was terminated before being interviewed, and police didn’t charge him…I’m thinking not very well. In any event, if they did things properly maybe there would be no lawsuit? Where was NEU in this?

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    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      A simple question, Were other staff members in the HC or unit placed under the same scrutiny? If the answer is no then the employee was targeted and constructively dismissed.

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  7. Posted by PLease do not put my name. on

    Do not stop fighting for your rights. The ones who fire you had already know who they will hire to take your place. They will hire one of their relative who have a different name. That’s the way it works for people who are in charge of the north. It is happening in the hotels too. If Inuk wants to work in the house keeping they will tell them it’s been already filled up. They will hire there own people from south. Good luck Bill.

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  8. Posted by Umingmak on

    Am I wrong in thinking this guy was just very bad at his job, completely unethical, and is now trying to blame all his errors on the GN?

    He allegedly incorrectly prescribed drugs. Everything else he’s complaining about is not harassment. OT always has to be approved. Drugs should be administered properly. And he should never get close enough to a patient that their spouse suspects an affair.

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    • Posted by RU Serious? on

      Right, he’s also “allegedly” part of the Russian mob too… *Eye roll*

      As for “he should never get close enough to a patient that their spouse suspects an affair” … Yea, this is a good point. Nurses should clearly do all their work remotely, by phone. Why have nurses in the community at all? Do you ever wonder if the jealous partner was the one with the problem? That’s how I’m leaning on this…

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    • Posted by Anonymous NOT by Choice on

      The Ministers, their Deputies, assistants, and directors – the entire congregation of obedient fools… made the mistake of hiring one of the few good SHP’s this Community has had. He wasn’t incompetent, lazy, or bad at his job. He was good to people. His mistake was being too trusting and trying to help some who would go and take advantage of him and throw him under the bus save themselves. I wish him all the best, and hope he finds peace.

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    • Posted by Involved on

      My spouse is convinced I’m having affairs with everyone of the opposite sex in Nunavut. That’s just how it is up here some times.

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      • Posted by Josywales on

        Sometimes? For real, for lots of people, it is 24/7.

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  9. Posted by Don’t go on the face of it. on

    You know Gord, I thank you for making a good point, and that point is : there are people out there, maybe you’re one of them that will judge on the face of it. Come on Gord, allow the investigation to bring up that and the court should be in a position, so you would think, to lay judgement. , but Gord, courts could have people that judge on the face of it too, but hopefully not.

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  10. Posted by Fellow collegue on

    I do not have experience working in Nunavut but I have spent my career in the Territories, both NWT and Yukon. Poor management, caused in part by under qualified individuals and a lack of applicants, is certainly a problem. I’ve had multiple work situations where managerial bullies were not held accountable nor replaced.
    As a previous work collegue, I can attest to his professionalism and dedication to the nursing profession. William conducts himself in a calm and empathetic manner. The community will suffer the most.

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  11. Posted by Art Thompson on

    The courts will determine some form of truth based on the evidence. In the meantime NU gets a bad rap and word goes around that its not a place a person wants to come and work. Not that it does not already have a poor reputation. The things that happen here just wouldnt be tolerated elsewhere. Its a twilight zone.

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  12. Posted by Experienced on

    There is definitely a problem with middle and upper management in the department of health. Many people of mediocre talents, who quite enjoy their status and clout as the big fish in the small pond.

    I wonder sometimes too if they are all related. Complaints and reports get made to those higher up, but not even an acknowledgement is received (makes you wonder it was the director’s mom?). These directors rise ridiculously fast up hierarchy as well, quietly weeding out the capable people beneath them who they wrongly perceive as threats. That said, sometimes the nurses in the health centres are a problem, which isn’t to say that’s the problem in this situation, just to acknowledge that it happens.

    It’s a difficult system, with supervisors doing jobs they are not ready for, being so far away from those they are in charge of (and in most cases have never met, and who are working in workplaces they have never visited). It’s a recipe for sociopaths to thrive, and they do. So many good nurses with long experience have been driven out, to make room for the sociopaths to carry on with little fear of exposure or censure from the MLAs who are responsible for them, but have no idea what they do.

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    • Posted by Eee on

      I agree with you totally. My wife applied for annual leave 8 months before needing it and was denied for “operational reasons” that were described as “if you go your colleague will be alone at work and no employee can be alone at work” but my wife was alone many times in the past year even with difficult patients, due to understaffing. The supervisor told her off for applying for leave 8 months in advance. The new in Nunavut supervisor wasn’t interested and didn’t care about eye appointments for our children, dental appointments for the whole family and the need to plan in advance to access services in the South unavailable in the North for most of us. But the supervisor’s buddy who followed her from her previous position got leave, the supervisor got leave, the supervisor’s supervisor got leave and the supervisor’s supervisor’s supervisor got leave – all for the same period, leaving no support for my wife. Front line employees, even long term employees, are treated badly because they are taken for granted while the newbies are catered to, accommodated and promoted through direct appointments, secondments and internal transfers. Eee

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  13. Posted by Matthew on

    Tragic and shameful that we treat nurses this way, especially coming out of a historical health crisis. The amount of anonymous comments speaks for itself. Dangerous for EVERYONE when health care workers dont feel safe to speak out for fear of losing their jobs too.

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    • Posted by S on

      Shame you tainted ypur comment with reference to a historical health crisis, Matthew. Covidmania was (is) not a health crisis, unless you are referring to the sociopathy of covidmania

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      • Posted by Stop allowing misinformation on your site NN on

        stop letting people post their anti-covid agenda on your site, Nunatsiaq. I’m sure you know which covid-nut you have on staff that keeps pushing these comments through. Tell them to knock it off. Otherwise you’re going to have to hire some coders to fix up this site with automatic misinformation warnings when you get reported to the CRTC for allowing misinformation to spread on your platform.

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      • Posted by Northern Guy on

        The familied of the 7 million who died from Covid would disagree with your ridiculous assessment.

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  14. Posted by Lol on

    How many workplace harassment complaints are ever found to exist by the Deputy Minister of Health? I bet near zero. The idea that you can manage workplace issues through the GN processes is a farce. ADM Berry is very unresponsive to even the most basic employee requests so I am not surprised. This employee should also check who has accessed his medical records since we saw a month or so ago a report from the Privacy Commissioner showing that this happens to employees all the time.

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    • Posted by Seen it before on

      Same problem in Justice. You can report a serious breach of ethics, and it will get buried by the people who are afraid to look bad because of it. The exact same game.

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      • Posted by John K on

        This! All my supervisors in Justice were much more concerned with optics than with effective management. It’s obviously based in a huge amount of insecurity because they aren’t qualified for or even good at the job they fell into.

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    • Posted by Bob on

      The blanket statements made that all senior managers in the department of health are incompetent is so far from the truth. Look at ADM Berry. I have worked in and out of the territory for a very long time and can say she is the best ADM the GN has ever had. She works tirelessly to advocate for front line staff and fight for the resources needed to ensure Nunavummiut have access to good care. ADM Berry’s vision and hard work has introduced nursing policies and standards that did not exist before, has created a Chief nursing office with a robust educator team, developed the territories first nursing orientation programs. Berry also developed the COVID 19 rapid response team model, the COVID19 hotline, virtual public health nurse and nurse practitioner programs, remote triage for nursing respite, and the closure protocols with paramedics to keep health care access available to every community despite the extreme nursing shortages. This just scratches the surface of the incredible work that ADM Berry has accomplished, there is so much more. And she does this with humbleness because to her, it is the right thing to do for the front line staff and Nunavummiut. So there is no way she acted in bad faith. This is a one sided story that obviously has conveniently left out important pieces of information.

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      • Posted by Used and Abused on

        You sound like an insider doing damage control. Maybe you yourself are a senior manager? Mirrors, the senior managers need to invest in mirrors, to see where the problems they work so hard on “solving” originate from.

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      • Posted by ADM Bury on

        -Harassment complaints buried. Either none have merit or they don’t want trouble.
        -Requests for collective agreement benefits that have some level of employer discretion ignored for all frontline nursing staff but given to bureaucrats in her office.
        -Responsible to provide new nursing retention package reported as far back per Nunatsiaq in 2019 but has yet to deliver (https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/new-recruitment-retention-strategy-for-nunavut-nurses-close-to-release/).
        .
        -If she was responsible for COVID-19 she was also responsible in mandating nursing staff stay in the territory, and then refuse special leave to be in the isolation hotels (all the while PAYING casual nurses to wait in the same hotels). Bureaucrats were frequently granted leave for breaks and vacations and were paid to WFH in the isolation hubs. They refused all pleas by staff and the union.
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        These are the lifer senior management people we need to drain the swamp of.

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  15. Posted by Old Friend on

    I’ve known Will since highschool! That anyone would even for one moment believe that he was a part of a Russian mob is laughable and ridiculous. Now that this is out of the way the fact that he was terminated before an investigation took place is definitely made in bad faith imo! I hope he wins the case

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  16. Posted by Kelly H on

    Hi. First of all, thanks William for taking a stand and speaking out. Every Nurse in Nunavut knows about this type of bullying, but for good reason, won’t speak out about it. I worked alongside him a few years back in Rankin Inlet, and he was one of the smartest and hardest working nurses i met. I can tell you from experience he is not incompetent, unethical, etc. BUT, I am also not surprised to hear they went after him. His weakness was always not knowing when to stay quiet when dealing with corrupt managers. He always had something to say and this seemed to make those (bad) managers insecure. He was always right..but some battles aren’t worth fighting. If you can’t handle being questioned or working with someone smarter under u, then you wouldn’t like him. Sadly, thats most GN management.

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  17. Posted by Shauna on

    Walks like a duck… sounds like a duck… it’s a duck. Regardless of it being the GN or any employer really, any movement to terminate an employee is not done frivolously or without, in many cases, legal and overall risk assessment… and cause. I spent several years working with the GN and now employed in the NWT, and I am not sure why, but nearly everyone perceives performance management and oversight to be harassment.

    While I cannot pass judgement on this case, something isn’t right. An employee isn’t fired for no reason, a licensing body does not suspend or investigate a license without cause, and the sticky situation described by this nurse has lack of boundaries written all over it. More to learn and more to come to light on this case I suspect.

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    • Posted by Insider on

      Ya you’d be surprised that even senior managers are effectively terminated without any due diligence, legal or HR advice, all the time. These people often think they can completely rely on ‘probation’ to terminate anyone they want for any reason they want. They can’t though. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are paid out for these mistakes.

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  18. Posted by Mit on

    When will the gn start to discipline lazy incompetent workers? This is how you boost morale. Set an example and show that this type of employee will not be tolerated

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  19. Posted by Taxpayer on

    Regardless of the merits of this case, Nunavut has definitely gained the deserved reputation of being an extremely difficult work environment for health care workers.

    Given how Canada and the world is facing severe long term shortages of health care professionals, this means ever worsening access to health care in Nunavut due to prolonged staff shortages.

    This story is not just about one nurse. It is not even just about one patient and their spouse, or specific supervisors that could not resolve a sticky work situation.

    For places like Resolute, it could very well be that in the future, it is just not feasible to operate a health center there any more. We are seeing this already as some health centers have actually been temporarily closed this year.

    Only the healthy will be able to live in our non-decentralized communities. And, if you remain, heaven help you if you get into an accident. Further, what parent wants to live somewhere that has no health care availability for their kids? Anyone with a hint of chronic disease will have to move to a regional center or even down south where there is some basic capacity.

    If our public officials and patients had more of an appreciation on how this stuff will eventually jeopardize the viability of certain places in Nunavut, perhaps they would take more concrete steps to encourage nurses to stick around.

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  20. Posted by Make Iqaluit Great Again on

    People rightfully complain about incompetent GN managers who cause all kinds of mischief in terms harassing underlings or otherwise exhibiting poor performance management and HR skills. Part of the problem is that the GN just doubles down and ignores some of the obvious causes of this problem. Irrational decentralization of government departments is a perfect example of this. I read in the article that much of the senior management for the health department is based out of Pangirtung.

    Let’s be brutally honest here. How many experienced, seasoned and highly regarded managers want to move to a remote community with few amenities that’s in the grips of a TB outbreak? Want a glass of wine with dinner? You can forget about that too.

    So, we you decentralize these positions to these communities, don’t be surprised when you end up with managers who are inexperienced or just not very good at their jobs. This is just common sense. There’s no magic to this.

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  21. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Its about time that these double standards and high handed practices were brought into the light of day! This type of underhanded activity where senior managers basically make work untenable for the employee is legally known as “constructive dismissal” and it has long been the go-to tactic for departments like GN Health.

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  22. Posted by Mike Glass on

    I know William and he was as genuine and committed to the community as could be. There is a huge shortage of nurses and the territory is not in a position to be pushing out hard-working, dedicated employees.
    The government is highly dysfunctional and if you’re not in bed with the GN it won’t do anything to help you no matter how damning it is to the communities and the population.
    Basically the GN is in it for itself and its bedmates only. Contracts are bought in secret back room deals and there is no accountability. Nobody cares. They only act like they care to get elected but if you need help you’ll never even get an answer. I’m sorry for William and I’m even more sorry for the population.
    The GN should be disgusted with itself.

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  23. Posted by Doug on

    I don’t buy this story for a minute. First, do you know how hard it is to terminate someone in the GN? HR would never sign off on a termination if they didn’t have substantiated reasons to do so. Second, it is almost a year and he still doesn’t have an active nursing license back. I have to ask why? It must be because there were ample concerns catching the attention of the nursing association, otherwise, his license would have been cleared quickly last year. And lastly, this guy ousted a vulnerable couple in the community in this article for totally self serving purposes. Nurses are supposed to care for their patients not throw them under the bus to get ahead in the world. It says a lot about his character IMHO. And these are characteristics that I do not want in a nurse taking care of me when I am facing a dark times in my life. Just think about that. He could have told this story without identifying the patient and his family from a very small community and still hooked many on the juicy headline, but he instead victimized this family in the press to win a few votes from the public. Selfish. William you should be ashamed!

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    • Posted by Shannon on

      Yes, yes, yes. Completely agree with you. Resolute is a very tiny community, and the information he shared in this story is for certain a breach of confidentiality….

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    • Posted by Tyler R on

      You know Doug, the College of Nurses doesn’t issue you a license if you’re on sick leave at renewal, which it sounds like he’s still on. So that could explain it. And why would he even want to come back after this? I wouldn’t.

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    • Posted by Tyler R on

      It’s “normally” hard to get fired by GN. But if HR doesn’t follow their own rules (which happens a lot) they can do whatever they want. But they risk liability, such as in this case. I mean that’s kinda what the article is about.

    • Posted by The College on

      The same college who magically reinstated a license after a nurse had enough and sued them recently. Google it. They are hard to work with even if you don’t have discipline on the table. Add that to the monster inefficiencies and that explains it all to me. Taking 24 months on basic discipline is their timeline. It is the reason why nursing should all be under one regulator nationally.

  24. Posted by The North on

    Everyone seem to be giving their piece regarding bullying and harassment in the workplace. With that said, the best evidence will be a survey by an independent agency of all GN employees, current and past employees, regarding bullying and harassment in the workplace by their supervisor, and the state of their mental health having worked for the GN. I I am quite certain the results will speak for itself.

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