fentie rewards folly

We’re all for cheerleading and talking up your employees. Recognizing staff accomplishments is good for morale, builds team spirit and makes…

We’re all for cheerleading and talking up your employees.

Recognizing staff accomplishments is good for morale, builds team spirit and makes for a better workplace.

But if you screw it up, the opposite can happen.

Which brings us to Dennis Fentie’s Premier’s Award of Excellence 2007.

This year’s leadoff individual recipient is Bea Felker, director of Yukon Emergency Medical Services.

It’s an odd choice for an excellence award.

Felker’s emergency medical services are in a shambles.

Two months ago, volunteer ambulance crews in Dawson City and Watson Lake handed in their radios. They’re angry about the lack of support they’ve received from the government. And the problem has been allowed to fester without resolution for years.

In May, there was a violent assault at Felker’s Whitehorse base involving an acting supervisor.

One attendant was choked so badly that his colleagues feared he would die.

It took three paramedics to pull the assailant from the victim and blood was spattered across the dispatch room, which was badly damaged in the fight.

The victim required many stitches to his head.

Several staffers who witnessed the assault were traumatized by the event, which, somehow, escaped the notice of the Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board.

Staffers were ordered to downplay the incident.

Though the police were called, no charges were laid.

And the assailant was suspended for just eight shifts. He’s back at work.

That stands in contrast with another ambulance attendant, who was recently fired after winning a harassment suit against his supervisor.

Needless to say, morale is an issue.

The Whitehorse base is short staffed, and the problem was made worse because some employees were redirected to cover the loss of volunteers in Watson Lake and Dawson.

The ambulance service hasn’t created a full-time position in 25 years, despite an enormous increase in calls.

The auxillary and on-call staff is raking in significant overtime pay as a result. It is a questionable use of public funds.

A promised upgrade to the station is in limbo.

And the base has lacked a manager for years, though one has recently been hired.

Some staffers have lacked proper training and failed competency tests. Another staffer was driving an ambulance without the required class IV licence.

Asked about these and other issues on August 24, Felker refused comment.

Now, less than three weeks later, she’s been handed the Premier’s Award of Excellence for her work.

It’s a highly questionable decision given the ongoing problems under her watch.

And it runs the risk of worsening morale issues among staff and volunteers, which will only make it more difficult to fix the problems. (RM)