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Sask. Facebook nurse Carolyn Strom loses appeal of $26,000 fine by SRNA - News - Nurses Arena Forum

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Sask. Facebook nurse Carolyn Strom loses appeal of $26,000 fine by SRNA by katty : April 11, 2018, 11:30:08 PM
A $26,000 fine against a Saskatchewan nurse who on Facebook criticized the end-of-life care her grandfather received “is not shown to be unreasonable,” said a Saskatoon judge who dismissed the appeal of Carolyn Strom.

The Saskatchewan nurse who was found guilty of professional misconduct and fined $26,000 for writing about her grandfather’s end-of-life care on Facebook is “absolutely devastated” that her appeal of the conviction and penalty was dismissed, says her lawyer.

Marcus Davies, the lawyer representing nurse Carolyn Strom, said he will appeal the decision.



Strom’s legal battle was sparked by a Facebook post she put up in February 2015 while she was on maternity leave. Her grandfather had just died and Strom posted an article on her personal Facebook page about end-of-life care. She commented below the article that her grandfather’s care at a health facility in Macklin had been “sub par.”

Staff at the facility complained to the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses’ Association (SRNA), the regulatory body for nurses in the province, which found Strom guilty of professional misconduct.

The association fined Strom $1,000 for violating the organization’s code of ethics and ordered her to pay $25,000 to cover some of the costs of the investigation and hearing, which cost roughly $150,000.

In a written decision released Wednesday, Saskatoon Queen’s Bench Justice Grant Currie noted that provincial legislation gives the SRNA the power to govern registered nurses in the province.

“That power is not absolute, but for the most part the Legislature has empowered the association to do what it thinks is best,” he wrote.

He said the decisions made by the SRNA’s disciplinary committee in respect to Strom “fall within the leeway that the law allows” and that the $26,000 fine “is not shown to be unreasonable.”

Currie said that while Strom’s right to freedom of expression was one of the subjects of the appeal, it was “not the focus of the appeal.”

“The focus of the appeal is whether the discipline committee made the kind of mistake that requires the court to interfere with the committee’s decisions,” Currie wrote. “So the decisions stand. The appeal is dismissed.”

Strom’s legal proceedings have been closely followed by nurses across the country and many signed an open letter to the SRNA last year saying its decision to punish Strom was “concerning” because it silences nurses who speak up about patients’ compromised care. In addition, hundreds of people across Canada and the United States signed an online petition calling for the SRNA to reverse Strom’s guilty verdict and an online fundraiser raised more than $27,000 to cover the cost of Strom’s penalty.


Natalie Stake-Doucet, a Montreal-based registered nurse who launched the online fundraiser, said she was “outraged” to hear Strom’s appeal had been dismissed.

“I’m angry right now. I’m very, very angry so I want to make sure I watch what I say given that now they say I could get a fine or lose my licence or something like that,” she said.

Stake-Doucet said the decision means nurses everywhere will be afraid to speak up if they see problems within the healthcare system. 

“It could have such wide-ranging negative consequences from Quebec to B.C. to everywhere. It’s scary really,” she said.

“If nurses aren’t allowed to talk about (the healthcare system), who’s left? Who can talk about it? Just managers and PR people? How’s that going to help anything?”

Strom’s one-day appeal hearing of the SRNA’s decision took place over five hours at Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench in January.

Davies argued that Strom had commented on her grandfather’s care in her capacity as a grieving granddaughter, not as a nurse. He said that, if the SRNA is allowed to discipline members who speak out, it sets a dangerous precedent and would give bodies that oversee self-regulating professions free reign to muzzle their members.

Lawyers representing the SRNA’s discipline committee said Strom identified herself as a registered nurse on social media and members of the public could reasonably assume she was speaking in a professional capacity. They said that, while the SRNA encourages its members to advocate for their patients, nurses must do so through proper channels.

Currie said the issues considered by the SRNA “are issues that are best determined by the people who are most familiar with all aspects of being a registered nurse.”

“All of the members of the discipline committee, except the public representative, were registered nurses. In determining whether certain of the rules apply to members of the association, those members were setting the rules for all registered nurses, including themselves. Likewise, when the committee members considered whether Ms. Strom’s conduct amounted to professional misconduct, they were using a measure that applies to all registered nurses, including themselves.”

After January’s appeal hearing, Strom told reporters she had endured “a very taxing three years.”

Davies said in an email Wednesday that Strom was “absolutely devastated” and would not be commenting further.

“We always knew we were headed for the Court of Appeal. The only difference is that we thought we would be on the other side of the appeal. We have 30 days to serve our notice to appeal and we will be doing so,” he said.
. Source : Leader Post

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