NSGEU president not taking part in Northwood review, renews calls for inquiry
HALIFAX -- The president of Nova Scotia's largest union has decided not to take part in the Northwood review process because of its "secretive nature."
In spring, 53 residents passed away from COVID-19 at Northwood.
Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union president, Jason MacLean, says he was invited to speak with the review committee about the experience of NSGEU members who worked at Northwood during the first wave of COVID-19. However, MacLean says he was informed that information provided to the committee cannot be shared publicly under the Quality Improvement Information Protection Act; anyone who shares information given to the committee could face a fine or prison time.
After learning that information cannot be publicly shared, MacLean decided not to speak to the committee.
"The NSGEU accepted the invitation to work with the review committee so we could share the experiences of our members," said MacClean. "The NSGEU stands with the 53 families who lost loved ones during the first wave of the COVID pandemic."
MacLean is renewing calls for the Nova Scotia government to launch a public inquiry into what happened at Northwood.
"We strongly believe that the public interest is best served by holding a public inquiry, fully disclosing all information, so the families, seniors, staff and Nova Scotians get the answers they deserve," said MacLean.
The NDP says the Liberals' approach to reviewing the Northwood COVID-19 outbreak is raising concerns about secrecy.
"Getting to the truth of what happened at Northwood is in the public interest," said NDP leader Gary Burrill in a news release.
"Proceeding in a way that could impose consequences on people for sharing information gets us no closer to that truth," added Burill. "The families who lost loved ones, and all those nursing home residents who have endured isolation, deserve a thorough examination of long-term care in light of the pandemic, which is why we maintain our call for a public inquiry."
NDP Health and Wellness spokesperson, Susan Leblanc, says it's imperative to prepare nursing homes for a second wave of COVID-19 and other possible virus outbreaks. "The Liberal government has yet to lay out a plan to ensure adequate staffing and single-occupancy rooms for residents," said Leblanc.
The NDP and the PC Party have repeatedly called for the government to launch an inquiry – not a review – into the situation at Northwood.
"It seems like the government has a bit of a problem doing inquiries in regards to anything," said PC MLA for Sackville-Beaver Bank, Brad Johns.
"At the end of the day, we're provincial MLA's – we're elected by Nova Scotians to represent Nova Scotians," said Johns. "I think they want answers – we need to provide those answers."
When asked Thursday if his government would change gears and call for a public inquiry, Premier Stephen McNeil said "it's not a process that we're looking at."
Meanwhile, recommendations from the review are expected in mid-September.