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Former hospital nurse accused of making false and damaging statements against the local hospital has her day

"The over all important issue is whether or not employees can go to a conference, sponsored by a union, and talk about issues in the workplace in an attempt to make things better"-Mark Wright lawyer representing Sue McIntyre
Lawyer Mark Wright reviews files for arbitration hearing. Photo by Linda Holmes.

Sue McIntyre, the former Registered Practical Nurse, at the heart of a grievance arbitration hearing into her dismissal from the North Bay Regional Hospital last year, was cross-examined by the lawyer representing the hospital, Tuesday afternoon. 

Shane Smith is legal counsel representing the North Bay Regional Health Centre. The employer maintains it has grounds for dismissal based on its belief, that McIntyre broke the hospital's code of conduct and media policy while attending a union conference. In a written response to Baytoday, the hospital stated, "Miss McIntyre engaged in misconduct by making reckless and inaccurate statements about the Health Centre, and that termination was appropriate given her conduct and history of progressive discipline."

Lawyer Mark Wright, retained by the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions to represent McIntyre, said it began when his client attended a health and safety conference sponsored by OCHU. Wright said McIntyre, who at the time was working on the forensic unit at the hospital, was asked at the last minute to join a panel discussion on workplace violence. 

"She was asked to say a few words, she wasn't prepared, she wasn't a scheduled speaker.  So she said a few words based on her experience at the hospital and thought nothing more of it," McIntyre's lawyer explained. 

Wright says his client learned on her way home from the conference that OCHU had issued a media release about the discussion. He said the result was certain comments attributed to her, were picked up by a local media outlet.

Wright says McIntyre requested the story be removed immediately, knowing she could be fired, but it was too late.  

"It was a private conference, it wasn't open to the public, she had no expectation that the things she said, were going to be reported in the press," said Wright.

"She spoke with conviction about the problems she saw in the workplace dealing with these important issues, and for that she's been fired. That doesn't make sense to us."

Even before the convention, Wright said his client, who is fighting to get her job back, felt she was a target for disciplinary action.

"NBRHC has fair and equitable personnel processes, and we work closely with our union partners to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for our Health Centre community," the hospital responded. 

Wright pointed out, "the over all important issue here is whether or not employees can go to a conference, sponsored by a union, and talk about issues in the workplace in an attempt to make things better. And you've got to be able to do that, and that is what this case is about."  

Following Wednesday's cross-examination, further hearings dates have been set aside for June and July.  Wright said if the lawyers get all the evidence and arguments completed within that time frame, the arbitrator will then make his decision, which is final and binding, not subject to an appeal.