THUNDER BAY – The main entrance of the Port Arthur Health Centre remains blocked by a fence, closing the north side clinic for the second consecutive day.
Despite an interim injunction issued by an Ontario Superior Court of Justice judge the previous day ordering the union representing the 65 striking employees to remove the fence and not obstruct access, the blockade remained in place on Thursday and physicians were unable to enter the building.
“We haven’t seen anything in writing,” said Unifor national president Jerry Dias. “There has not been any formal sort of letter from the courts yet.”
The appointment secretaries, medical aides and medical records personnel have been off the job for 123 days. After 18 weeks of the clinic remaining open through the strike with replacement workers, Unifor had vowed it would be shut down this week.
Some of the physicians and management had briefly gathered down the sidewalk from the demonstrators before moving to the other side of Court Street. They were yelled at by demonstrators before departing.
“We’re not going anywhere. This has to be settled at the bargaining table. It’s not going to be settled in the court,” Dias said.
“We’re bringing this to a head. It’s unfortunate we’ve had to do this. We spent a lot of time in the media, we gave them lots of notice. I spoke to their lawyer, saying not to put us in this predicament and don’t force us to do this but everything fell on deaf ears. The doctors are going to have to explain to their patients why they did this.”
Josie Caccamo, who has worked as a medical aide in the clinic for the past six years, said she loves her job and is heartbroken for patients who have been affected.
“These patients are caught in the middle of this horrible strike. This is so unjust. All it takes is getting back to the table. The patients that are coming here are coming here because of health care conditions. Some are going through life threatening problems. Why are they caught in the middle of this?” Caccamo said.
“This strike is involving thousands of people in the community and all it takes is getting back to the table. Please, don’t hold your patients hostage because they are being caught in the middle of this. They should be able to access health care.”
Carol Janzen, whose family doctor is at the Port Arthur Health Centre, believes the closing of the clinic is not acceptable.
Janzen went down to the picket line in the afternoon and became involved in a confrontation with demonstrators.
“That’s where I feel now they’ve involved the patients. It’s not our fault and now nobody can get in there to see their doctors,” Janzen said earlier in the day.
“They’ve suggested I get a new doctor. They’ve suggested I go to emergency, go to a walk-in clinic. I disagree with that because I take medication and other doctors don’t know my history. You can’t just get another doctor to prescribe other medication because it could conflict with what I’m taking already.”
Several police vehicles were present through the day, along with private security. Union officials had been expecting a local sheriff to arrive and present them with the interim injunction, though that had not happened by the late afternoon.