Sun. Dec 5th, 2021

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London’s acting doctor says the public health unit is doing everything it can to build a positive working environment, amid union claims of a toxic workplace, its best doctor’s abrupt leave. and the stress of the pandemic .

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Alex Summers, Middlesex-London Health Units acting health officer, said on Thursday that staff have faced a “massive amount of work and stress” during the pandemic, adding that efforts are being made to improve the atmosphere in the workplace.

“We continue to proactively understand and respond to the new stressors for our staff through ongoing, weekly meetings with our union partners,” Summers said. “It is a difficult and persistent challenge to balance the demands of this virus with the understandable fatigue we all feel in all parts of the public health and health care system.”

The health unit has nearly tripled its workforce to support its pandemic response, Summers said. It has also increased the amount that staff can claim for mental health through their workplace services.

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“The Middlesex-London Health Unit is a workplace that cares about each other and cares about our society,” Summers said. “This is a workplace committed to kindness and understanding.”

Summers’ statement comes a day after the head of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 101, which represents about 300 health units, told The Free Press that its members “constantly” express concern about a toxic workplace, but are afraid to proceed with formal complaints of fear of retaliation.

Steve Holland said pandemic-related burnout is a major problem among health care professionals, but is “optimistic” that the atmosphere in the workplace can be improved.

“I think so out of someone, Dr. Summers have worked (on this issue), and he actually seems to care. . . . Everyone seems to think aloud about Dr. Summers, and I will trust and hope that he will do what he says he will do, ”Holland said on Thursday.

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“I like to think we can all work together to make this a better work environment.”

On Wednesday, London News Today reported health worker Chris Mackie, who is now on leave, was the subject of complaints about behavior in the workplace. Anonymous and primarily former employees of the health unit claimed a toxic work environment under Mackie’s leadership.

The health unit would not confirm the existence of the complaints or provide any details. Public health officials declined to comment on Mackie’s leave Thursday, saying it was a confidential personnel matter.

Members of the health unit’s board contacted by The Free Press on Thursday also declined comments.

The health unit suddenly revealed that Mackie was on leave in a one-sentence press release last week. His last appearance at the health unit’s twice-weekly COVID-19 media briefing was on October 21st. Mackie was replaced as president and CEO of the health unit in July 2020, but remained a health worker until his leave.

jbieman@postmedia.com

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