One hundred and sixty thousand dollars is at stake for a nursing manager at Stanton Territorial Hospital who is suing the nursing association for legal fees after the group stripped her of her title and promptly dropped the case on her appeal.
Tracy Matesic and the Registered Nurses Association of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut (RNANTNU) appeared in a Yellowknife courtroom on June 10 to argue whether or not RNANTNU would pay Matesic’s legal costs, $160,000, for appealing their complaint against her.
The complaint followed a short-staffed shift in 2018 when nurses in the obstetrics ward argued that Matesic put patient safety at risk by overworking staff. Recognizing the urgency of the complaint, the association immediately established a panel to investigate.
Once concluded, the investigation lead to Matesic being stripped of her managerial role and a notice was sent to nursing associations across the country to solidify her punishment nationally.
Austin Marshall, representing Matesic, told the court that “minds were getting made up very early on,” pointing to emails between the association’s investigator and two nurses interviewed in the investigation.
The emails include statements of assurance that “none of this has fallen on deaf ears,” to “hang in there,” and that “there will be an outcome and there will be change.”
Before the association has concluded their investigation, the official is telling nurses that “she understands how they feel and wants them to know there will be change,” Marshall said.
When Matesic appealed the decision, the panel dismissed the case and reversed their stipulation that Matesic could not act as a manager.
Marshall said the decision is an example of the committee “struggling with its role.”
In an interview with Marshall, Theresa Hansen, the on-call labour and delivery doctor on the night in question, said that she was “saddened that a situation that I view as somewhat beyond any one individual’s control has led to punitive action by RNANTNU.”
“Although the circumstances were far from ideal, the patients were managed well,” she said of the short staffed shift.
After 442 hours of billable time at a rate of $300 an hour, Matesic owes Marshall $160,000, a sum he argues RNANTNU should pay.
Greg Sim, representing the association, calls that an amount “that’s just not reasonable.”
He offered instead for the association to pay $6,000.
Sims said RNANTNU would pay party/party costs – costs payable to the successful party in a litigation matter – but that it was “not appropriate” to pay solicitor/client costs – the legal fees the lawyer charges.
Justice Andrew Mahar said that he would need some time to consider the evidence before making a ruling. He did not set a date for his decision.