Being busy not excuse to delay patient referrals, disrespectful behaviour

Hospital clinic secretary’s pattern of disrespectful conduct and failure to process priority referrals provided just cause for dismissal
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 08/15/2018

An arbitrator has upheld the dismissal of an Ontario hospital worker who displayed a pattern of unprofessional and insubordinate behaviour along with a serious incident involving patient referrals.

Debbie Langford was hired in July 2011 by the Kingston General Hospital in Kingston, Ont., which later became known as Kingston Health Sciences. She initially worked in various part-time positions until October 2013, when she applied for and was appointed to a full-time position as a clinical secretary for the hospital’s heart rhythm services (arrhythmia) clinic — a specialized clinic for patients with heart issues who need treatment or management of their conditions.

The group of doctors in the clinic had an agreement with the hospital in which the latter provided them with administrative support and other services. As a result, Langford and her colleagues on the clinic’s support staff were employees of the hospital, but took their direction from the clinic’s doctors. There were two other clinical secretaries at the time of Langford’s arrival and they did similar work — though some tasks were the responsibility of specific individuals. A key part of the job involved processing patient referrals from emergency room and family doctors — logging them onto a spreadsheet, date stamping them, and placing them in the on-call doctor’s inbox the day they were received. The clinic usually received between five and 10 referrals per day and they were a top priority in the clinic since the patients usually needed timely medical attention.