Labour board upholds firing of Well being Canada scientific trials chief

Well being Canada mentioned Dr. Norman Viner’s outdoors work with Queensway Carleton Hospital and a long-term care residence interfered along with his authorities duties and put him in a battle of curiosity.

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The federal labour relations board has upheld Well being Canada’s controversial choice to fireplace the chief of its scientific trials division – an Ottawa physician who additionally labored part-time at Queensway Carleton Hospital and a long-term care residence.

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Well being Canada mentioned Dr. Norman Viner’s outdoors work interfered along with his authorities duties and put him in a battle of curiosity.

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Viner, nevertheless, referred to as the investigation that led to his dismissal “a witch hunt” and mentioned his speedy supervisors have been conscious of his skilled work association.

A 20-year public servant, Viner was chief of scientific trials within the scientific trials division of Well being Canada’s genetic therapies directorate when he was suspended with out pay in 2016 and fired for trigger a 12 months later.

He had labored in Queensway Carleton’s geriatric division all through his public service profession.

Viner grieved his suspension and firing to the federal labour relations board, insisting he had finished nothing flawed.

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Hearings within the case stretched over 4 weeks between August 2019 and December 2020, and concluded with written submissions in February 2021.

In a lately launched choice, the labour relations board upheld the firing as a legitimate step “in gentle of the seriousness of the misconduct.” It discovered Viner did some hospital work throughout common enterprise hours, used authorities sources to assist that work, took unauthorized depart, and despatched confidential authorities info to his private e mail account.

“On this case, the grievor (Viner) has not acknowledged his misconduct,” concluded adjudicator Ian Mackenzie. “Within the circumstances earlier than me, and within the absence of any recognition from his half that his actions have been improper, I discover that the bond of belief between employer and worker is irretrievably damaged.”

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Mackenzie mentioned Viner ignored “clear directions” about find out how to handle his outdoors work and will have introduced Well being Canada into disrepute by way of his mishandling of confidential info.

The Skilled Institute of the Public Service of Canada, which represented Viner, mentioned it could not touch upon the choice. Viner couldn’t be reached for remark Tuesday.

The board heard that within the spring of 2016, some Well being Canada workers raised considerations about Viner being late or unprepared for conferences, and answering his cellphone throughout them. That led to an inside investigation throughout which Viner’s telephone and pc have been seized.

The investigation discovered Viner gave his Well being Canada e mail as his level of contact for the hospital, was on name throughout hours that overlapped along with his authorities job, used his authorities telephone to speak with the hospital, incurred greater than $4,000 in roaming and long-distance prices unrelated to authorities work, and was absent with out depart for twenty-four days between August 2014 and February 2016.

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The investigation additionally uncovered 11 insecure emails containing protected info, plus one with a password and username.

Viner mentioned he despatched the emails to his private Gmail account to facilitate working from residence, believing they have been safe.

The board heard Well being Canada authorized Viner’s outdoors work on the situation he not use authorities time or tools. He additionally had an off-the-cuff association along with his boss, Dr. Agnes Klein, that allowed him to conduct rounds on the hospital on Wednesday afternoons.

Dr. Klein mentioned authorities physicians adopted an honour system and have been anticipated to make up any time misplaced to their outdoors actions.

Well being Canada’s ethics code permits public servants to have interaction in outdoors employment so long as it doesn’t give rise to a battle of curiosity or impugn the impartiality of the civil service.

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Assistant Deputy Minister Pierre Sabourin testified that 29 out of 65 medical officers at Well being Canada have been additionally practising physicians. Many had compressed work weeks, he mentioned, to permit time for his or her outdoors scientific work.

Norman Viner at the International Ball.
Norman Viner on the Worldwide Ball. Ottawa solar picture by Shannon Bain

Viner’s authorities contract referred to as for him to work 37.5 hours per week. Dr. Robert Cushman, a former Well being Canada director basic, testified that Viner was a productive worker who incessantly labored at residence within the evenings. He additionally praised the standard of Viner’s work.

Viner mentioned he carried out hospital enterprise totally on his lunch hours or on private time. The board heard he was on name at Queensway Carleton Hospital beginning Friday at midday. Viner testified that being on name didn’t require him to be bodily current, and that he principally carried out affected person rounds on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

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Attorneys for Viner argued that though Well being Canada knew he was a working doctor, it didn’t account for his skilled obligation to sufferers, a few of whom required speedy assist. What’s extra, they argued, Viner shouldn’t be required to apologize for actions which have been both unsubstantiated or condoned by administration.

In his choice, Mackenzie mentioned a uncommon absence might need been acceptable in Viner’s case. “Nonetheless,” he mentioned, “the proof reveals that it was not a uncommon event. His on-call schedule additionally reveals that he made himself obtainable regularly, and never on a uncommon foundation to take care of duties on the hospital.”

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