Neglect of Patient Warrants Termination

|Canadian Labour Reporter|Last Updated: 02/08/2011

For a healthcare worker, leaving a disabled client alone in the bathtub is not simply an error in judgment warranting discipline, but an act of culpable neglect calling for termination, says a recent arbitration award.

A group home worker with 12 years’ experience caring for live-in clients with physical and developmental disabilities, A.H. had worked both full- and part-time jobs in two of the employer’s group homes. Her job was to assist clients with daily living activities. This included supervising personal hygiene and performing other duties associated with the established, written lifestyle plans of the clients. Her performance appraisals were satisfactory.

Transferring back and forth between the two residences, A.H. received orientation and training with respect to the policies and procedures in effect at each residence. Orientation covered all aspects of working with clients, including bathing procedures. Following the death in 2006 of a resident who drowned after being left alone in the bath tub, a memo was circulated to all staff that set out new guidelines covering bathing procedures and the explicit direction that “no one is to be bathed unattended.” These instructions were also included in the updated individual client profiles and signs to this effect were also posted in the bathrooms.