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Nurse claims he was fired for reporting sexual abuseBelieves health authority and Health and Social Services are unprepared to deal with issue
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 18, 2012
Bryan Schultz, a registered nurse who worked in Paulatuk for more than a year between 2010 and 2011, says the Beaufort Delta Health Authority and the Department of Health and Social Services harassed and opposed him in his efforts to help abuse victims because both entities were unprepared to deal with the child sexual abuse problem.
While working at the community health centre in Paulatuk, Schultz says adolescents and women revealed to him that they had been sexually abused.
As well, when he held health classes at the community's high school, he talked with students about what forms of touching are appropriate and inappropriate.
He says he was told explicitly by several girls in the class they had experienced sexual abuse, and it was common for girls to experience abuse as early as Grade 4.
In early December 2010, a meeting was held between Schultz and representatives from the health authority and social services to discuss the many reported cases of child sexual abuse in the community. Schultz understood he was not to take any further sexual abuse statements from young children because the resources weren't available to adequately help them, nor to get any disclosures from children under 12, nor to do any kind of preventative work or have any discussion with community members around sexual abuse.
Schultz says he was told by officials with the health authority that social services would consult with the mayor and the hamlet to develop any necessary programs for victims of child sexual abuse but he never saw any results.
When he tried to force the issue with health and social services managers, he says he was put on suspension and formally investigated. The investigation was also motivated by a movement within the community to have him removed as a nurse at the health centre, a result of some community members' discomfort with drawing attention to the sexual abuse problem, he says.
Schultz said one of the statements about sexual abuse he received and reported to the RCMP in 2010 resulted in the conviction of a man this year.
Schultz's dismissal letter from officials with the Beaufort Delta Health Authority states that he was removed from his position of community health nurse in Paulatuk for inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour, for jeopardizing "the health and safety of the clients and the reputation and integrity of the Authority," and for treating individuals employed by the GNWT "in a disrespectful and offensive manner."
Prior to his dismissal, the health authority relocated Schultz from Paulatuk, a community of close to 300 people, and then ultimately prevented him from continuing to work as a nurse for the Government of the Northwest Territories.
However, accounts from both the mayor of Paulatuk and Schultz are at odds with the government's stance.
Ray Ruben Sr., mayor of Paulatuk, says his interactions with Schultz were always positive and, while he was aware of some community members' dislike of the nurse, he was somewhat surprised by his removal.
"The relationship we had, it was nice, it was good," says Ruben. "We spoke many times."
"We (at the hamlet office) had an idea of what was going on because of what people were telling us but, like I say, up front between our office and the health station there was no problems ... It worked well, I believe. We thought things were going to go good over the next while."
Ruben says he did receive calls from community members complaining about how they were received at the health clinic. In one complaint, a client was chastised for using another person's prescription pain medication for a toothache and not given his own prescription out of concern that the client was abusing the highly-addictive medication.
In the second complaint, mothers spoke out about trying to bring their children to the health centre outside of operational hours, as past nurses had allowed them to do.
Schultz's account of his time in Paulatuk and references in letters to Schultz from the Beaufort Delta Health and Social Services Authority indicate that Paulatuk, much like the rest of the territory, was suffering from a staffing shortage and two nurses were not always available. There were periods of time where Schultz was the only nurse on hand.
Ruben says he was aware of at least one petition for Shultz's removal being circulated by community members but reiterated the hamlet office had no concerns with Shultz's conduct, adding he didn't expect the nurse to be removed after the investigation.
Shultz says the health authority's investigation documented an allegation that he had inappropriately touched a client but the health authority did not investigate nor report it to the RCMP.
He says he was also allowed to continue work for an additional week after the allegation was received.
He went to the Registered Nurses Association of the NWT and Nunavut and requested an investigation into his conduct in order to clear his name.
The nurse association also investigated a department complaint regarding the dosage of an antibiotic that Schultz administered to an infant and his response to professional criticism of that incident. In May, the association concluded there was "insufficient evidence of unprofessional conduct." The nurses association has confirmed with News/North that Schultz has a valid licence with no restrictions.
Schultz says he never received any written reprimands or performance reviews during his time with the Beaufort Delta Health Authority, even after the formal investigation and after he specifically asked for direction in writing.
"I think this is a really complex issue and I don't pretend to, and nor have I met anybody that seems to have all of these answers," said Schultz. "Except, I think what most people would agree quietly, is that we need to be talking about it."
Despite repeated requests for an interview, the Department of Health and Social Services did not provide any comments for this story.