NSGEU releases report "Neglecting Northwood"

“Hiding mistakes means we can't learn from them. Stephen McNeil must show leadership and give the staff, residents and families what they deserve — a full public inquiry.” — Jason MacLean, NSGEU President

Halifax (04 Aug. 2020) — Today, the NSGEU released a report chronicling the government neglect and delay that contributed to the death of 53 seniors who lived in Northwood's Halifax campus during the COVID outbreak.

The report, Neglecting Northwood, uses internal documents obtained from the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the Department of Health and Wellness through the province's Freedom of Information Act. The report also includes information gathered from NSGEU members who were deployed to Northwood during the outbreak.

Report made public because of restrictions on review committee process

The content of the report was originally prepared by the NSGEU for the government's Northwood Review Committee. However, the NSGEU determined that information provided to the committee could not be provided to the public in any form, not even through the province's Freedom of Information Act. As a result, NSGEU choose to release the report publicly instead of submitting it to the review committee.

“The NSGEU stands with the 53 families whose loved ones died in Northwood during the COVID outbreak. Our union stands with all those health care workers who did so much and risked so much for their patients,” said Jason MacLean, NSGEU President.

"The union believes that it is in the public interest for Nova Scotians to understand some of the factors that left so many vulnerable seniors at risk to this pandemic."

Provincial govt. cuts and delays in taking precautions

While attention was rightly focused on preparing hospitals for the pandemic's arrival to Nova Scotia the report details key decisions that put the staff and residents of Northwood at risk. Those include:

  1. Years of government cuts to long-term care facilities without understanding the risks this created for the health and safety of those who live and work there.
  2. Dismissing infection control concerns raised by Northwood and refusing to fund proposals that would have eliminated the practice of double and triple bunking.
  3. Delaying the use of personal protection equipment, such as masks, in Northwood even though British Columbia implemented the safety practices in their long-term care facilities three weeks earlier.
  4. Not responding quickly enough once the first case of COVID was identified in the facility.

Full public inquiry needed

“This report only scratches the surface of what happened in Northwood. It raises many more questions than it can answer,” said MacLean. “Hiding mistakes means we can't learn from them. Stephen McNeil must show leadership and give the staff, residents and families what they deserve — a full public inquiry. Anything less is unacceptable.”

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE