A whistleblower who raised concerns over how seniors are treated at a Saskatoon care home has been fired.
Care aide Peter Bowden brought his concerns about care at Oliver Lodge to the legislature in March. The following month, he was suspended with pay. The province maintains he was suspended because of allegations of workplace misconduct, however Bowden said he believes the suspension was because he spoke out.
Now, Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) President Dan Florizone confirmed Bowden’s employment was terminated this week.
In a statement, Florizone said the decision was made “based on the results of a labour relations investigation” into allegations Bowden violated seven SHR policies, and not because Bowden contacted media and politicians about his concerns about care at the facility.
“There was sufficient proof and this investigation had significant cause to justify termination with cause,” he said.
Florizone said, for privacy reasons, he could not speak to the specifics of the allegations, investigation results or the investigation’s recommendations.
He stressed Bowden’s termination was not because he spoke out and does not want to discourage future employees from speaking out about problems in the workplace.
“The last thing we want to do is send the wrong signal here,” he said. “In the same breath, going and speaking out doesn’t give you a get out of jail free card. It’s not a free ticket to do as you wish and breach siginficant policies of the region.”
However, Bowden said he feels he was fired for speaking out.
“I feel as though the government didn’t care,” Bowden said Sunday. “I brought these allegation forward (and) all the government cared about was seeing me buried.”
Though he’s upset with his dismissal, Bowden said he doesn’t feel “too bad” because he said the investigation process led him to expect this result. He said the three meetings he had with the investigators felt more like interrogations.
“As they progressed they got appreciably worse, and at the last one I knew then that I was toast,” Bowden said. “The investigator was quite clear that I was out on my own. No one was agreeing with me at all about my abuse allegations.”
For specifics on the allegations and results of the investigation, Bowden referred to his union Service Employees’ International Union West (SEIU-West). A union representative could not be reached for comment. Bowden said SEIU-West filed a grievance with the investigation results, but he did not know if the grievance committee will send the matter to arbitration.
In April, some details of the reasons for Bowden’s suspension were sent to media by executive council chief of operations and communications Kathy Young. The Saskatchewan privacy commissioner is investigating whether the provincial government violated Bowden’s privacy when it released that information.
Premier Brad Wall said the information on seven allegations was general in nature, and he believed it was consistent with government policy.
“There’s a provision in the act that allows for the disclosure of some information if it’s in the public interest,” he said.
Saskatchewan’s privacy legislation allows the government to share personal information if the public interest outweighs any potential invasion of privacy.
Bowden said all but one of the written complaints were submitted after he went to the Legislature to speak out.
“The sad part about it is nothing has changed (at Oliver Lodge),” Bowden said. “What I did and what I’ve gone through has really been a complete waste of time.”
Follow on Twitter: @lkretzel