Union president upset after hospital PR executive gets COVID shot before front-line workers

Erie Shores Healthcare says vaccine has been offered to members of its leadership team

Erie Shores Healthcare says vaccine has been offered to its leadership team

Arms Bumanlag posted this photo on his Twitter account with the date of his second vaccination date. (Twitter/ArmsBumanlag)

While many frontline workers are still waiting to get their COVID-19 vaccine, the director of public relations for Erie Shores Healthcare got the vaccine this week, angering the leader of the local union that represents  workers in long-term care homes.

Arms Bumanlag posted on social media about getting the shot and has since taken the post down. In a reply to the post, a photo showed his name along with the date for his second shot. That has also been taken down.

While that social post was what drew the ire of Tullio DuPonti, president of Unifor 2458, the hospital said other managers and executives also had access to the vaccine.

In an emailed statement, Erie Shores Healthcare CEO Kristin Kennedy told CBC News that the vaccine was made available to her leadership team as they enter the hospital regularly and have contact with patients and frontline workers. 

But, knowing a person working in public relations got the vaccine, before frontline workers infuriated DuPonti, and his members working in long term care homes.

"Today they posted that 17 people died in the city of Windsor, 14 in Long-Term Care facilities and we're battling to get members and the residents in long term care facilities, that vaccine, yet a PR person from the hospital is there in line in front of all these workers," he said.

Tullio DiPonti is president of Unifor Local 2458, which represents personal support workers at 22 long-term care and retirement homes in Windsor-Essex. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

DiPonti said members call daily because they're afraid to go into the facilities in outbreak and are asking how they can get the vaccine. He said 95 per cent of his workers, including personal support workers, registered nurses, housekeepers, dietary workers, and others are still not vaccinated.

"Then they see this on Twitter. The PR person is getting it, yet the hands-on people that are actually in those homes trying to save these lives haven't gotten the vaccine, that's what infuriates our members and myself," he said.

In response to the concerns around Bumanlag's vaccination, Kennedy said the hospital is following all of the appropriate provincial directives related to the vaccine distribution plan. But now that they have given it to all the front line health care workers, who voluntarily wanted the shot, Kennedy said they have offered it to other staff. 

"As part of a community based hospital, our leadership team is also dealing directly with health care providers and administrators in long-term care and retirement homes, community agencies and with representatives of other businesses in the community including those in the agri-food sector," she said.  

This week the Windsor Essex County Health Unit said it would vaccinate those living and working in long-term care homes that were in outbreak. It plans to have all of the long-term care facilities not in outbreak completed before January 20.

For DiPonti, he said he's more upset with the system than any one individual and how the vaccine rollout has been going so far. He said frontline workers, especially those in long-term care, above anyone else, should be the first to get the inoculations.

"They're taking their lives in their own hands by going in there and doing the job they love to do," DiPoint said.

Adding that his heart breaks for the residents, family members, and union members that are still waiting to be vaccinated.

"We hear people dying," DiPonti said. "Our members are getting affected more and more every day, and it's not right, it's just not."


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