Subscribe
OHS Canada Magazine

News

Nursing-home director accused of harassing, abusing employees

Board of directors reportedly received more than 200 complaints


(Canadian OH&S News) — A nursing home in Saint-Quentin, a mostly francophone town in northern New Brunswick, has hired an outside investigator to look into staff allegations that the home’s executive director has subjected workers to a poisoned work environment with verbal abuse, harassment and intimidation.

The allegations against André Savoie of the Résidence Mgr. Melanson stemmed from a petition circulated by local physicians, concerned about why so many employees of the home were requesting time off and whether its residents were getting appropriate care. This led to numerous staff complaints about Savoie’s treatment of them, according to René Doucet, a national representative with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) assigned to the Melanson home.

“If I’m not mistaken,” said Doucet, there were “over 200 complaints that have been received. So it’s not the nature of the complaints that is completely out of reason; it’s the number of complaints that really sparked the interest of the board of directors for the nursing home.”

Many complainants accused Savoie of intimidating staff while being unresponsive to their questions and concerns, he added. “So they’re getting to the point where they’re worried about their safety and security, but also that of the residents.”

The board of directors contacted the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes (NBANH) for advice. Michael Keating, the executive director of the association, advised the board to launch an immediate investigation.

Keating, who also acts as legal counsel for NBANH, told COHSN that he hoped the independent investigator would “shed some light on what’s going on, and then we’ll be in a position to make a decision.”

Within a week, the board hired Claire Savoie (no relation to André Savoie), a retired former human-resources advisor with the provincial health authority and nursing-home administrator, to conduct the investigation. Claire Savoie began interviewing staff at the Melanson home on Nov. 3.

Keating cautioned against jumping to conclusions about the validity of the complaints, calling them “just allegations as far as we’re concerned.

“Like everywhere, you have people who don’t like the boss or the managers,” he said. “It happens on a fairly frequent basis. We’re very aware that they escalate to this type of situation, and most cases are resolved between the employer and the employee.”

For now, André Savoie has been temporarily suspended from the nursing home while the investigation is taking place, in order to maintain the probe’s integrity and so that employees will not feel intimidated during interviews. So far, the investigation has been going well, according to Doucet.

“They’re being very open with that investigator,” he said about the workers. “They get the feeling that they’re being heard. So already, they’ve seen some difference in the ambience in the nursing home. There’s less stress.”

Speaking for CUPE and NBANH, Doucet added, “We’re both concerned that this has gotten to this point without anybody really notified of the extent.”

Keating said that André Savoie could potentially face job termination if the investigation finds merit in the employees’ allegations. “But that has to be a pretty serious type of thing for that to happen,” he added.

Saint-Quentin is located in Restigouche County, which borders on Quebec.