Staff at Nunavik’s Inuulitsivik health centre decry its “toxic workplace”
“The working climate inevitably has a negative effect on the delivery of services”
After a period of relative stability, things look rocky once again at the Inuulitsivik health and social services centre in Puvirnituq.
Over the past 18 months, there have been “serious and ongoing issues that staff are experiencing with the upper management” of Inuulitisivik, says an open letter circulated last month to officials and health board staff, and obtained by Nunatsiaq News.
Conditions have caused considerable distress to the employees, say the 14 signatories, who include employees at Inuulitsivik and the secretary-treasurer of the Northern Village of Puvirnituq, who signed in the letter in support.
In the letter, they allege that Inuulitsivik has been “arbitrarily suspending and dismissing staff without due cause,” citing personal vendettas as the root of some of these actions.
The suspensions and dismissals have caused high levels of uncertainty, insecurity and anxiety among the staff, they say.
“The working environment across the health centre is toxic,” their letter states.
“This is not a healthy situation for staff or users since the working climate inevitably has a negative effect on the delivery of services.”
People of colour and Inuit are suffering the most, says the letter, which alleges a staff worker, who had been fired, had died by suicide.
Nunatsiaq News asked the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services for a response to the open letter on Monday, Aug. 6.
An email from the communications department of the health board said “we will be in touch when someone becomes available.”
It’s not the first time that Inuulitsivik has experienced turmoil.
In 2007, Dr. Vania Jiminez, then Inuulitsivik’s director of professional services, compared Inuulitsivik’s condition to an abscess ready to burst: the director of nursing had quit, along with several nurses, and doctors were overwhelmed.
Quebec was looking at a formal trusteeship for the troubled hospital.
In 2006, cutbacks affected services at Inuulitsivik, which, before that, in 2005, had suffered huge payroll errors, an exodus of management, staff and board members, and serious work safety problems.
By 2012, Inuulitsivik appeared to be in a healthier state: Quebec had written off the centre’s accumulated deficit of more than $100 million, and the centre, which includes a 25-bed hospital in Puvirnituq, managed to produce a surplus of more than $500,000 in 2011.
Quebec also increased the health centre’s budget at that time by about $18 million to roughly $90 million a year.
Inuulitsivik, which employs about 1,000 part-time and full-time workers on various rotations, also provides care to seven Hudson Bay communities and takes care of patient services for Nunavimmiut in Montreal.