January 13, 2016 5:24 pm
Updated: January 13, 2016 7:45 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Unhappy employees at new MUHC Glen site call it ‘Glentanamo’

WATCH ABOVE: It's been called the hospital of our future. But 8 months after the $1,8 billion superhospital opened, the reality of working at the MUHC is not so rosy. Many are complaining the consortium managing the hospital is too controlling, making the day-to-day work environment depressing. Amanda Jelowicki has this Global Montreal exclusive.

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The consortium enforces rules some employees criticize as bordering on the absurd.

MONTREAL –  To the outsider, the superhospital at the Glen site is shiny, clean, and most importantly, new. But inside the modern building, the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) has garnered an unfortunate nickname among some employees.

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“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 said. “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.

“A lot of people hate it here. There are people who have made sure they have found positions elsewhere,”Roloff said.

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.

WATCH BELOW: Sabine Roloff discusses her issues at the Glen Site

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 to feel humane,” said Christine Lemay, an audiologist who works at the Children’s Hospital.

“Big buildings like ours can feel a bit cold. We want to make them feel comfortable as soon as they cross the door.”

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 televisons to play movies. The Children’s Foundation is considering the request, but SNC must approve the installation first.

READ MORE: Auxiliary volunteers shut out of MUHC

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, 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 go like this 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.

“I see it being tough on some employees not because it’s a bad thing, but because it’s different for them. With new environments and an environment of 2.5 million square feet, you have to have rules and rules that are in the interest of the entire organization.”

The Consortum insists the rules are necessary while they maintain the hospital.

“We have a contract up to 2044 so the partnership agreement ends after 30 years and it’s for a long-term partnership,” said Genevieve Closset, the operation director at the McGill Health Infrastructure Group.

That doesn’t satisfy Roloff, who is fed up with the new rules.

“What saddens us is it’s going to take 30 years before we get our hospital back,” she said.

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