Skip to content

Union calls on county to do more about Sunset Manor

County warden argues union comments are 'misinformation, unfounded,' says county has worked hard toward reopening home
2022-06-27 Sunset JO-001
Sunset Manor is a long-term care home in Collingwood operated by the County of Simcoe.

A provincial union representing healthcare workers is publicly calling on the County of Simcoe to do more to reopen admissions at Sunset Manor long-term care home in Collingwood. 

However, the warden for the County of Simcoe said the county is doing its part to reopen the home and the union is circulating “misinformation."

In a news release issued Sept. 7, the Services Employees International Union (SEIU Healthcare) claims the employees at Sunset Manor fear retribution for speaking out about issues in the workplace. 

“Many staff members have expressed their fear of reprisal for voicing their concerns and have brought their concerns forward to the union in an attempt to have matters resolved,” said SEIU Healthcare Union Representative Allison Ward-Trumbley in an email to CollingwoodToday. 

She confirmed the complaints about fear of reprisal have been made to the union as recently as this month. 

“Many complaints across all three homes we represent within the county have come in the past six months, more than a few dozen,” said Ward-Trumbley in the email. “They are fearful of being fired and being targeted by the employer and being disciplined. Others are concerned about having their hours reduced.” 

According to Warden George Cornell, the county has feedback options in place for staff, which includes an anonymous 1-800 line. 

“The ministry has audited our robust staff feedback protocols … and were satisfied,” wrote Cornell in an emailed statement to CollingwoodToday. 

Sunset Manor has been under a new admissions ban since June 2021; the ban was ordered by the Ministry of Long-Term Care after several reports of non-compliance dating back three years and documented in inspection reports.  

The county has challenged the admissions ban in court, alleging it was an excessive response prompted by the reports of an ex-employee who is now a provincial inspector. 

The province has countered that the ban was and is still necessary based on multiple reports by multiple inspectors before and after the ban was in place. It is the province’s position that the admissions ban would have been warranted even without any of the evidence presented by the former Sunset Manor employee.

The union, in their Sept. 7 news release, issued three calls to action for the county. 

Firstly, they call on the administration, including Warden George Cornell, to “work quickly to find real solutions to lift all orders and meet provincial standards.” 

The warden said the county has put in “significant resources, training and support toward getting Sunset Manor reopened to new admissions.” 

“There’s a dedicated team who have worked countless hours to provide extra training auditing and advancements to our existing protocols,” stated Cornell in his email. “Simply put, this is our top priority and I and county council have given direction to our team to do everything within our power to reach compliance and welcome new residents.” 

The second call from the union is for the county to increase staffing and hours of care at county-run homes to help address the recruitment and retention crisis and ensure county residents get the support and care they need. 

The union claims frontline workers at Sunset Manor have complained of being short-staffed. 

There is a nation-wide healthcare workforce shortage and recruitment and retention crisis that many industry professionals have noticed grow worse over the course of the pandemic.

According to information released by Statistics Canada, job vacancies in health during the first quarter of this year were nearly double what they were two years ago. Nurses and nurses' aides were among the top ten occupations with the largest job vacancy increases over that period. 

“While we wish the county could solve the nation-wide labour challenges within the health-care sector, and specifically long-term care, that is a tall order for one regional municipality,” stated Cornell.

“We do everything we can to support all our staff and ensure that our residents receive the best care possible. This includes competitive salaries, maintaining higher staffing levels than most other homes across the province, offering benefits, training and significant opportunities for staff to provide feedback should they have ideas or concerns," he added.

The warden said the county has not laid off any employees and the home would "gladly" hire more workers but "simply can't find more."   

According to Ward-Trumbley, staffing issues are the only industry-wide common concern. 

“While the county may assert some of the issues are ‘national problems,’ the ministry of health and long-term care has identified key areas of concern and non-compliance that ultimately has led to the no admissions order and recently an administrative monetary penalty being issued for a compliance order,” said Ward-Trumbley in an email. “That, to me, does not suggest a national problem, but a site-specific problem.” 

The ministry announced last month it was issuing a $5,500 fine to Sunset Manor for ongoing non-compliance with provincial requirements for medication management. 

The final call to action from SEIU Healthcare is for the county to work with all of its long-term care homes to create safe and respectful environments for staff to speak to management about their issues and concerns without the fear of retribution. 

“It is extremely disturbing and neglectful for the County of Simcoe and Sunset Manor to not do everything in their power immediately in order to re-open their doors to seniors in Collingwood who badly need their support,” stated Ward-Trumbley in the news release. 

Warden Cornell said Ward-Trumbley’s comments were “unfounded.” 

“This home has never been scrutinized and audited more than it has been over the past year and a half under the management of Universal Care Canada Inc.,” stated Cornell, referring to the management company — hired by the county at the ministry’s order — to oversee management of the home. 

“We are urgently working on solutions, we encourage staff to bring forward all their concerns, hours of care have been dramatically increased and the home provides excellent care and quality of life to our residents,” stated Cornell. 

The County of Simcoe confirmed on Sept. 7 that 48 of the 148 beds at Sunset Manor are empty.

“We’re ready to reopen admissions when the province grants compliance,” stated Cornell. “We hope the union will continue to be our partners as we work toward this goal.” 

The County of Simcoe operates four long-term care homes in Simcoe County, including Sunset Manor, Simcoe Manor (Beeton), Georgian Manor (Penetanguishene), and Trillium Manor (Orillia). 

Reader Feedback

Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter and editor. She has 15 years of experience as a local journalist
Read more