POLITICS

Seniors care aide worker suspended for speaking out about conditions: NDP

04/21/2015 07:20 EDT | Updated 07/15/2015 12:59 EDT
REGINA - Saskatchewan's Opposition says the government is trying to muzzle a care aide who spoke out about working conditions at a seniors home, but the premier says that's not so.

NDP deputy leader Trent Wotherspoon raised the issue of Peter Bowden being suspended with pay in question period Tuesday.

Bowden, who has worked at three different care homes over the last 11 years, is in trouble for posting concerns publicly on Facebook and complaining to managers about resident care, said Wotherspoon.

"To the premier, why is he not investigating the concerns Peter raised instead of just investigating Peter, trying to shut him up?" he asked.

Bowden told reporters earlier this month that residents at Oliver Lodge in Saskatoon were at risk of skin infections because they were left in soiled diapers and bedding for up to 10 hours.

He said there are times on his night shift that he looks after 32 residents by himself and more staff are required to provide better care.

Premier Brad Wall said the Saskatoon Health Region has not disciplined Bowden for speaking out on behalf of patients.

"That has not happened, it will not happen," he said in question period.

"I will add this — the region, and therefore the government, will never tolerate by any employee of the government or partners of the government any actions that would jeopardize the health, safety and well-being of either patients or co-workers."

Wall said he was speaking in a general sense and complaints against employees are often investigated while they are suspended with pay.

Wotherspoon told reporters outside the house that the government's senior staff is trying to discredit Bowden.

"Matters should be dealt with in a fair way, in a respectful way, through due process," he said. "What we see from the premier's office is a big concern around breach of privacy."

Reporters learned of Bowden's suspension in an email sent Monday by a government source.

The email said Oliver Lodge staff had submitted written complaints about Bowden to management, ranging from alleged patient care concerns to harassment of other staff and residents.

Reporters asked Health Minister Dustin Duncan on Tuesday why private employee information was shared. He said the government wanted to disclose background information without divulging details because of the likelihood the issue would be raised later on.

"The information that would have been provided even in the questions in question period today tell a part of the story," he said. "But I don't think they tell the full story."

Duncan added he couldn't give more details on the complaints against Bowden.

Wotherspoon said Bowden's suspension will scare other people into not speaking out. The Opposition has been calling for changes to long-term care for months and has cited staff-to-resident ratios as one of the major problems.