Port Arthur clinic workers ask Thunder Bay residents 'to seek health care elsewhere'

The union representing striking workers at the Port Arthur Health Centre in Thunder Bay, Ont., is asking patients to find alternative health care services, starting Wednesday.

65 striking workers to rally Wednesday morning

65 workers at the Port Arthur Health Centre are expected to rally together on Wednesday to urge residents to avoid crossing the picket line and 'seek health care elsewhere.' (Heather Kitching/CBC)

The union representing striking workers at the Port Arthur Health Centre in Thunder Bay, Ont., is asking patients to find alternative health care services, starting August 8.

"Essentially we just want people to access different health care options ... because obviously, anytime that somebody crosses the [picket] line, the doctor still gets paid for that service," said Lori Salmi, the Unifor unit chair at the clinic.

She said the rally, scheduled for early Wednesday morning, will include other supporters joining the picket line.

"We are just looking to raise awareness to what the issues are at the clinic," Salmi added.

The 65 workers at the health centre, who are all female, began their strike on April 9 and continue to walk the picket line after several attempts to negotiate with their employer failed.

"There's nothing been going on in regards to any bargaining talks," Salmi said. "We are just trying to step-up our efforts in order to force them back to the table."

A clinic representative told CBC News management is waiting to see what happens Wednesday, but added that she doesn't feel patients should be caught in the middle of the dispute.

"I don't think it is right to request patients to put their health care on hold due to personal gain," Olena McCuaig, the manager of human resources and operations said.

Unifor Canada recently posted a request on Facebook, asking patients to reschedule their appointments starting on Wednesday, or to seek health care elsewhere. The union plans to have the staff, who have been on strike for more than 100 days, surround the clinic.

"We just want to make sure that we are letting people know that there are other avenues to utilize with regards to health care at this point," Salmi said.