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Employees call Montreal’s new hospital ‘Glentanamo’

MUHC Glen CampusMONTREAL – To the outsider, the super-hospital at the Glen site is shiny, clean, and most importantly, new. But inside the modern building, the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) has garnered the unfortunate nickname, among some employees, of ‘Glentanamo.’

The reference, of course, is to the U.S. detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. “The doctors, when they first moved here they were told there were many things they could not bring from their offices because they were electrical,” Royal Victoria patient attendant Sabine Roloff told Global News. “They were very upset so they began to call it Glentanamo. So yes this site is now known as Glentanamo. Unofficially.”

Sabine Roloff has worked at the Royal Victoria Hospital for 13 years. She – along with many other employees who spoke to Global News – said the day-to-day work environment at the Glen Site is restrictive, demoralizing, and difficult to bear.

Their anger isn’t directed at the MUHC, but at a consortium controlled by engineering giant SNC-Lavalin, known as the McGill Health Infrastructure Group. Under the controversial Public Private Partnership agreement, the Consortium is responsible for managing the hospital for 30 years. After 30 years, the MUHC re-assumes control of the hospital.

The consortium enforces rules some employees criticize as bordering on the absurd. Some of the restrictions in place:

Personal electrical devices, including coffee machines and radios, are banned because they use too much electricity. Employees can only make coffee in designated lounges using approved machines.

Strict rules exist about what’s allowed on the walls. Nails are banned, because they might damage pipes inside walls. Tape isn’t allowed on walls, because it might damage paint. Painters tape is allowed, but employees complain it doesn’t stick to the walls well.

An art committee must approve any wall decor, but employees complain they move too slowly. Consequently 1,600 pieces of artwork from the old hospitals are sitting in storage.

Some departments like audiology have started putting up wall decals on their own, which are allowed. They say a colourful, friendly environment helps calm nervous children and parents. “We want to make the environment feel humane,” said Christine Lemay, an audiologist who works at the Children’s Hospital.

The old Children’s hospital had kids’ movies playing in waiting rooms. At the new Glen site, televisions only show MUHC informational videos. Employees have requested the installation of new televisions to play movies. The Children’s Foundation is considering the request, but SNC must approve the installation first.

One complaint several employees made to Global News stems from Christmas. There were 12 Christmas trees stationed throughout the hospital complex. But because of electricity restrictions, none of them were allowed Christmas lights.

“How much power does that take,” Roloff asked. “It’s minuscule. It’s Draconian.”

Also because of electricity, most lights operate on motion sensors. So they turn off frequently while people sit behind desks.

“In the areas where the lights go off, it’s to save energy, so we are being good corporate citizens by doing that,” said Imma Franco, the director of technical services, planning and real estate for the MUHC. “Now it’s a change, so someone has to wave their hands. If they are not moving the lights go off. They just have to wave their hands and the lights go back on. You know, you get used to that.”

MUHC management work closely with the Consortium. Franco admits there have been growing pains, but reiterates the hospital is a place of work and not a home.

“This is a bit like moving in a new house. You don’t fill your walls the day you move in. You live in that space and you then start transforming your space to make it your home. It’s the same thing here,” Franco said.

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