Local 11 of the Union of Northern Workers, which represents health care workers at Stanton Territorial Hospital, has a new president and he’s not mincing words regarding COVID-19.

“We’re in a war right now, it could last a long while,” states Kevin Grinsted, the new local president and a patient care coordinator at the hospital.

Grinsted replaces Frank Walsh as president after Walsh became manager of medical and surgical services.

Walsh, who has been in the management role for about a month, resigned as local president on Tuesday evening.

Walsh has had a long involvement with the union starting with his first tenure as Local 11 president from 2005 to 2011 before serving three terms as second vice-president with the UNW.

In 2014, Walsh ran for president of the UNW against union president Todd Parsons at the 16th triennial convention. He came up short in that race and then returned to his role as Local 11 president from 2014 to 2020.

Local 11 president and Stanton Hospital nurse Frank Walsh addresses UNW supporters and members at a practice picket outside of the Young Offender unit at North Slave Correctional in January 2019.
NNSL file photo

Grinsted issued a letter to union members at Stanton on Wednesday, thanking Walsh and his wife Crystal for their years of involvement. Grinsted asked members to help him carry on the work of the union.

“As I write this we are experiencing our 19th day of the COVID-19 pandemic,” states Grinsted’s letter. “As a result of this unprecedented health care emergency, we, the essential workers here at Stanton, have been called upon to do what we do best … be health care providers. We now undergo changes daily that before would have taken months – if not years – to achieve. You are all heroes, legends and the select few of humanity that chose to be here, right now, to help the sick of both mind and body.”

The letter goes on to state that there are many new aspects to the job that staff need to adjust to including a new chief operating officer at the hospital, as well as “new managers, new roles, and a vast number of changes to experience.”

Grinsted says in the letter that the local is asking members to “come together and formulate some plans as soon as possible.”

The letter concludes by noting that Local 11 members can contact Grinsted as president; Gayla Thunstrom, UNW first vice-president; Bridget O’Keefe, regional vice-president for North Great Slave; and Josee-Anne Spirito, regional vice-president for Somba K’e and shop steward network project coordinator.

Correction: 

An earlier version of this article, which also appeared in the April 3 print edition of Yellowknifer, incorrectly identified the Local 11 executive of the Union of Northern Workers. Those people are: Kevin Grinsted, local 11 president, secretary Nicole Tews and shop steward Angela (Drenna) Mernickle. They are mostly separate from the list of contacts for local 11 members, which includes Grinsted, Gayla Thunstrom, UNW first vice-president; Bridget O’Keefe, regional vice-president for North Great Slave; and Josee-Anne Spirito, regional vice-president for Somba K’e and shop steward network project coordinator. Yellowknifer apologizes for any confusion and embarrassment caused by this error. 

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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