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Doctors at major Ontario hospital network speak out about 'abusive' work conditions

A group of doctors at a major hospital network in Ontario is speaking out about what they call terrifying working conditions, and a declared conflict of interest situation concerning hospital purchases.

The group of doctors at Trillium Health Partners laid out their concerns in a letter penned by their lawyer, claiming they are "targets of the abusive and unprofessional behaviour of the hospital administration," and say they are speaking anonymously because they say they are "terrified for their livelihoods."

The letter, written in December, calls for the provincial government to appoint a hospital supervisor. It alleges a "toxic culture rooted in harassment, intimidation and threats of loss of privileges, by targeting physicians who dare to question the hospital’s decision making… this has created an environment wherein physicians are afraid to practice medicine."

One of their lawyers, Brooke Shekter, told CTV News Toronto in an interview that she couldn't name the doctors or say how many there are, but said that the conditions are serious.

"It's pretty bad. They say that it's reached crisis proportions. They’re unhappy and fearful to work, which is contrary to the public interest," Shekter said.

The letter describes several cases, including a physician who saved a life, but was allegedly disciplined because he wasn’t wearing correct personal protective equipment.

Another doctor was allegedly grounded after the hospital learned about a medical condition and called him "crazy" in a meeting, the letter says.

Others were allegedly publicly shamed by having guards remove them from the premises, the letter says.

Another issue raised in the letter was purchases through a shared supplier, whose leader is the husband of Trillium Health Partners' former CEO.

However, Trillium said in a statement that the CEO quite appropriately immediately declared a conflict of interest and resigned from the board of an intermediary shared services organization and complied with an ethics regime.

The hospital network says its lawyer investigated the allegations in the letter and, "While we are unable to speak to the specifics of the report, we can confirm that the allegations you reference were not substantiated through the general counsel’s review."

But that review can’t be impartial, said Shekter.

"It raises a reasonable apprehension of bias for a hospital to say, We investigated ourselves,'" said Shekter. "You need an independent investigator."

CTV News Toronto reached out to Ontario’s health ministry, which sent a statement saying, "Public hospitals are independent corporations that are governed by their boards of directors."

NDP MP France Gelinas said she will be bringing up a bill in the Ontario legislature this week to call for more transparency around hospital procurement.

She said in an interview that concerns about doctors’ working conditions, especially in a pandemic, must be addressed.

"When they write a six page letter, it should automatically trigger action from the ministry to look into this so that we make sure they have the right working conditions to support them," Gelinas said. Top Stories

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