Termination appropriate discipline for resident abuse at care centre: arbitration board

Cook's "reckless" handling of incident resulted in elderly resident's fall
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today

A Saskatchewan long-term care facility was justified in firing a cook who was involved in a physical incident with a resident, the Canada Arbitration Board has ruled. Brian Watson-Colter, 61, worked as a cook at the Ituna Pioneer Health Care Centre, where his primary responsibilities were to prepare meals and serve them to the residents. He occasionally assisted the centre’s special care aides in seating or moving residents if asked but it was not part of his official job duties. On June 30, 2006, he was involved in an incident where an elderly resident fell to the floor during a dispute over seating for dinner.

The resident had sat in a chair usually occupied by another resident, who took exception and began an argument. A special care aide attempted to convince him to move to another chair, but the resident refused. Upon hearing the commotion, Watson-Colter came out of the kitchen to help. He told the resident to get out of the chair and when he refused, Watson-Colter reportedly tipped the chair forward. The resident, who was in his 80s, fell forward onto the floor. An incident report was filed and the centre began an investigation.

The investigation found Watson-Colter’s account of the incident varied in different interviews and concluded he was an unreliable source for accurate information. He also refused to accept responsibility for his role in the incident or acknowledge that his actions played a part in the resident’s fall. The special care aide, however, was considered reliable and stated she had things under control and had not requested Watson-Colter’s assistance.