THUNDER BAY — The president of the Ontario Medical Association says she hopes behaviour that occurred last week during the labour dispute at the Port Arthur Health Centre "is the last time this happens in Ontario."
Dr. Nadia Alam first waded into the dispute on Friday with a lengthy post on social media saying that doctors from New Brunswick to Alberta had messaged her, "alarmed by the events" in Thunder Bay.
Her article pointed to the installation of a metal fence which she said had put patients needing urgent health care at risk, and to an incident that cut power to the building, potentially damaging vaccines, other medication, and frozen eggs or sperm from couples being treated by a fertility specialist.
The fence was subsequently removed by court order.
Thunder Bay Police said Monday that all activities related to the strike, including an alleged assault against a visitor to the clinic which Alam has also raised, remain under investigation.
In a followup statement Monday, Dr. Alam said patients had lost access to over 1,000 medically necessary appointments as a result of the actions of Unifor, calling that "completely unacceptable."
She alleged that objects had been thrown at patients trying to access the clinic.
The OMA president said "doctors are demanding answers from the authorities and accountability for those responsible."
While acknowledging that the right to strike is protected by law, Alam said "we must ensure that a patient's right to medical care is never compromised again, no matter the labour dispute."
Unifor representative Andy Savela said any vandalism that may have led to power being cut at the clinic is "nothing that we would support."
Savela said he has heard various reports about what transpired, but union officials need more clarification.
Unifor's legal team is also currently examining the OMA president's recent statements.
"There's a lot of allegations...Hopefully, following the police investigation, we'll learn that a lot of the accusations put out by the OMA are unfounded...We don't know anything other than the power being lost," Savela said.
He added that he feels it is "unhelpful" for the OMA leader to make the kind of comments she has made when contract bargaining is about to resume between the clinic and the union.
"We don't condone some of the behaviour that's been alleged. (They) certainly weren't done by Unifor the union."
Savela said the union may have more to say about the OMA's statements later.
Negotiators for Unifor and the Port Arthur Health Centre will sit down for contract bargaining on Tuesday, for the first time since March.