QEH parking attendent suspended after picture taken for toll-booth story

Ryan Ross
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Debbie Heald, a Queen Elizabeth Hospital parking lot security employee, was shocked to learn that she was being suspended after this photograph appeared on the front page of The Guardian April 24. The woman has since been told she will be reinstated.

An Island man whose wife was temporarily suspended from her job as a commissionaire after her picture appeared in The Guardian says the situation is ridiculous.

George Heald’s wife, Debbie, was working in the ticket booth at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown last week when a Guardian photographer took her picture without first contacting the hospital’s communications staff.

Debbie works for Commissionaires and George said she was told on Friday that she was being put on an administrative suspension pending the outcome of an investigation.

“I was livid.”

Commissionaires provide contracted security services to the provincial and federal governments, including at the QEH.

The picture ran in The Guardian on April 24 and Debbie worked part of her shift Friday at the QEH before she was told she was suspended without pay until the investigation was completed.

Debbie was also scheduled to work Saturday and Sunday.

George said she has since been told she will be reinstated, paid for the shifts missed during the suspension and will be given a verbal reprimand.

Commissionaires N.B./P.E.I. CEO Peter Kramers confirmed Debbie was suspended pending the results of an investigation related to hospital and corporate policies about contact with the media.

Kramers said he couldn’t discuss the situation further and referred inquiries to the QEH.

In a statement, the hospital’s CAO Jamie MacDonald said the QEH contracts its security services to Commissionaires and is happy with the service it provides.

“We are not in a position to comment about the human resource management protocols and processes followed by the Commissionaire Corps of Canada as it relates to the staff they assign to provide security services at our hospitals as we do not get involved in their internal operations,” MacDonald said.

Now that his wife is going back to work, George said he still doesn’t think his wife did anything wrong.

He also said if Commissionaires thought there might have been a problem it should have investigated and then taken actions if it felt any were necessary instead of suspending her first.

“I think it’s ridiculous and that it could have been handled better.”



Organizations: Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Commissionaire Corps

Geographic location: Iceland, Charlottetown, Canada

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Recent comments

  • Peter Worden
    May 04, 2014 - 14:10

    As a writer and journalist in different provinces and territories I will attest to the ludicrous lengths that government media policies have been allowed to extend for the sole reason of avoiding any semblance of criticism. The chill of censorship runs far and deep in government communications and, in my opinion, it's often remedied by workers themselves not giving a damn.

      May 04, 2014 - 18:34

      It wasn't the government who suspended her, it was the office of commissionaires. read the story before you comment.

    • To Upwester
      May 05, 2014 - 07:43

      You don't think the suspension is based on a breach of policy that the Health PEI and the hospital administer? Health PEI can't suspend someone who isn't actually under their employ so if you want to fixate on technicalities, have at it.

    • downeaster
      May 05, 2014 - 07:53

      And the office of commissionaires takes their marching orders from Health PEI, which takes its marching orders from Robert Ghiz's office.

      May 05, 2014 - 12:18

      And you both know this as fact?

  • Ron Asbill
    May 04, 2014 - 13:57

    Security company person who suspended her is an idiot. The photo looks as though it was snapped without her permission. Until they make taking a persons image illegal without their permission, these type of shots are going to happen. If it was such a big deal, the security company should have contacted the news paper and had the photographer reprimanded.

    • Downtown Dougie
      May 04, 2014 - 15:08

      How does it look like it was taken without her permission? You could be right but I don't know how you can reach that conclusion by looking at the picture.

  • don
    May 04, 2014 - 12:58

    Jamie MacDonald the qeh is a joke we are spending billions on a place and the service is no better then a country doctor. every time u open the paper the qeh is closed due to another bug. what we need is MANAGEMENT that cares and will clean up the garbage we have called staff that is NO GOOD patronage is doing good at getting the pay but no work. and the health of islanders and visitors are a steak. if someone in the liberal family died in the qeh due to dumbness boy will there be hell but just the reg islander who cares. sick sick.

  • Downtown Dougie
    May 04, 2014 - 11:39

    I used to work for the federal government and they have a policy in place that prohibits employees from commenting on department business in the media. I'm sure that allowing your picture to be featured in a story about the department, whether good or bad, is also prohibited. I can't comment on the department of health's policy in this regard but I'm sure it's similar. In the eyes of the public the parking attendant is a representative of the hospital, in that she works there, so no doubt the suspension came as a result of her photo appearing in along with the article. Having said that, I do agree with those that have said it was heavy handed. I think a refresher on the department's policy would have been sufficient since she obviously meant no harm. In fact, if she was on the side of eliminating parking fees, she would be on the side of eliminating her own job. Leaves little doubt that she has no interest in defaming the hospital on the issue of parking fees.

  • tfm
    May 04, 2014 - 09:32

    If suspension was deemed necessary-and like others I don't see how it was-then the correct procedure would be a presumption of innocence until proven guilty, i.e., suspension from duties WITH pay. Random photo-taking is going on all over the place. None of us could protect our jobs with this sort of "media relations" approach.

  • Jocelyne
    May 03, 2014 - 23:41

    Yep! I worked for Commissionaires and never again. For some reason they seem to fear the media. Definitely not a good company to work for, just saying

  • jamie
    May 03, 2014 - 20:37

    Doesn't anyone find it silly how all the parking lots in Charlottetown have little booths with people sitting in them, and they only handle cash? I mean, what is this, the 1980s???? Automate the parking garages and parking lots where they charge for parking. This is a task that is tailor-made for automation. You take your ticket to a validation machine and pay using either cash, debit card, or credit card, then you get your validated ticket returned to you and you insert that at the automated gate in order to get out. The Charlottetown airport is the only place in this area doing this. Why not the city parking garages and the QEH ? Has parking become a make-work project or something?

  • do not get it
    May 03, 2014 - 17:04

    That is unfair. Or is it a message for everybody. Do not talk to the press. Period.Still does not make any sense. And it is bad PR for you guys.

  • William White
    May 03, 2014 - 16:25

    I don't get it, what did she do wrong?

  • We are in Canada
    May 03, 2014 - 15:39

    UPWESTER.. We may not be hearing from her as she would probably be in deeper doo doo or fired. If she gets fired for a simple picture , what do you think will happen if she vocally tried to defend herself? However ,if the husband is not an employee ,he should be free to speak his opinion without consequence. Its HIS opinion. And should not come back on her.

      May 04, 2014 - 14:09

      I know, but it makes her look weak, having the husband speak up for the "little woman".The whole idea of suspension is ridiculous and not the fault of QEH but the commissionaires who still think they are in the armed forces and they really are contributors to society.Did this commissionaire even speak to her to get her story? Probably not, he'd be too caught up with his authority,saving parking lots everywhere.

  • Jan Roach
    May 03, 2014 - 15:04

    Think about this folks. The story was about parking fees & therefore the QEH & Dept of Health. This story has nothing going to do with Mrs. Heald or the Corps. of Commissionaires for that matter. In my opinion Mrs. Heald was caught in a pissing match (for the lack of better words) between the powers mentioned above. Why even a reprimand. Too bad a lawyer would not take this case pro bono just to prove a point. When will Gov't stop making the hard working front line people their scape goats. That's exactly what happened here - trying to deflect the issue plain & simple.

  • did she pose for pic or not?
    May 03, 2014 - 15:00

    I have worked for security company very similar to commissioners and when I was hired, I was told that I was never to speak to the media without permission. I imagine Debbie was told this as well if it was a policy of the commisionaires not to have any media relations. If she posed for this picture knowing she was violating company policies then I agree she should be reprimanded. The policies are there for a reason and she broke the rules.....but if she didn't pose for the picture and guardian staffer snapped picture without her consent then shame on them for endangering her job...they owe her an apology and the headline should read "guardian photographer responsible for employee suspension"...but I can see why the commisionairs had to do investigation to get to the bottom of the this..they have procedures and policy to follow.

    • hrmrocket
      May 03, 2014 - 20:38

      Of course. That's why they suspended her without pay before investigating, thereby declaring her guilty BEFORE discovering the facts.

    • Charlie S
      May 03, 2014 - 21:35

      If that was the case, why wouldn't they do their investigation first before suspending her. Or if part of their procedure is a suspension, it should be done with pay especially if the investigation shows she didn't do anything wrong.

  • an opinion
    May 03, 2014 - 13:56

    Not surprised, in my opinion this whole health care system is closed off , patients are basically kept in the dark as much as possible, things move at a snails pace. Any other bigger province encourages patients to know their health status and participate in an open manner in their care. And I do believe there are studies saying a fully informed and encouraged to participate patient generally fares better . What harm did this lady cause? They sit in all sorts of weather, are friendly and cause no harm. There are far greater issues with that hospital that could use addressing. Just an opinion.

  • Ray
    May 03, 2014 - 12:53

    Wow, these losers who run QEH lol PEI is a joke

    • Uninformed Roy
      May 04, 2014 - 13:51

      The parking attendant (aka the subject of this story) does not 'run' the QEH. Please say you knew this. Right?

  • Rendal
    May 03, 2014 - 12:03

    What next. Shame Shame Shame. You did nothing wrong Debbie.

    May 03, 2014 - 11:37

    Why are we hearing from her husband and how irate he is, why doesn't the employee complain? It seems to be all about the husband!

    • Alan
      May 03, 2014 - 14:08

      Maybe her suspension would be still ongoing if Debbie was talking to the paper. Tit for tat has been known to occur. Does our fearless QEH leader clear everything he does with Minister Currie before its in the news? Does this situation also mean that reporters have to clear all stories with the authorities other than their bosses, before they can attempt to do their jobs? The whole thing is a sick joke in my opinion. She wasn't commenting for or against, she just had her mugshot taken for reference in the article. Maybe next time take a picture of the booth at Prince County Hospital. Nobody can get in trouble doing that!

    • Wow
      May 03, 2014 - 14:27

      Because if she complains she will probably get fired next time!

  • Bill Johnstone
    May 03, 2014 - 11:04

    If the original story had been a good news story about the QEH and the department of health instead of an article about some of the hardships the parking fees have on some families and patients nothing would have been said about the woman having her picture taken. It was not a good news story so her bosses felt the need to punish her as if the story was somehow her fault.

    • Bill the Story
      May 03, 2014 - 13:59


  • charlottetown resident
    May 03, 2014 - 10:39

    I don't think we should have to pay for parking at a hospital. If they don't make you pay at the other hospitals in PEI, why the QEH? And if they charge the public to park at the hospital, then they had better also charge for staff to park on the property. Otherwise, if staff get free parking, then it is a taxable benefit. If Joe or Jane Citizen have to pay $1/hour to park there, then a doctor or nurse or any other employee should be paying $12 to park during a 12 hour shift. Fair is fair. In fact I am going to raise this with Canada Revenue Agency - if Health PEI is not charging staff to park or are not declaring their taxable parking benefit on their T4 statements, then Health PEI is committing fraud under the Income Tax Act.

    • Get Real!!
      May 03, 2014 - 11:37

      Yeah, what an abhorrent practice of charging people to park...imagine walking out of hospital after having a baby and not having paid a bill at the end and you have to fork over some cash for having parked. Wow! I mean I would lose my marbles if that were me. What's that? You just had surgery and no one asked you for money at the end? Well.. let me tell you, when I got outside and that parking attendant asked me to fork over a green sheet, boy would I go aboard that person. Because I am being ripped off in the long run on that one. Might have to mortgage the house. You are exactly the kind of entitled and self-serving individual, incapable of discerning what's important and what isn't, that ought not open their mouth in public.

    • Ann
      May 03, 2014 - 11:48

      Actually, the charge is not for parking on hospital property, it is for using the designated visitor parking lot. Staff have a separate parking area on the property for which there is no charge. There is no taxable benefit to the staff because there is no charge for using the restricted staff parking lot.

    • charlottetonw resident
      May 03, 2014 - 17:57

      @Ann So are the public free to park in the restricted staff parking lot? Of course not, because that is for staff. You don't see the dichotomy of Health PEI's position do you? By charging the public to park on this property, Health PEI has created a ''market'' for parking. They have made parking an exclusive good and they have determined the cost of that good. If you as an employee work on this property and receive free parking, then that is a taxable benefit. Let's assume that an individual works 150 hours a month (assuming 37.5 hours a week as the civil service does). At a very conservative $1/hour for parking, that is a taxable benefit of $1800/year that employees are receiving from their employer Health PEI. It is exactly like extra income on top of your salary.

    • Jeff
      May 04, 2014 - 02:14

      Did I miss something in this story?? Why do you people think you can voice any opinion on whatever you want to as long as there may be six degrees of separation. This is a story of a woman being treated unfairly at work, not a jumping board for you to comment on a "related" story that interests you..

  • townie22
    May 03, 2014 - 09:19

    that seems pretty heavy handed. was she informed previously that as a condition of her employment she is not allowed to have her picture taken? politicians have their pictures taken at work all the time, does that mean.......

  • charles
    May 03, 2014 - 09:16

    Welcome to the Gentle Island

  • seriously
    May 03, 2014 - 08:23

    Did she contact the media? Did they just drive up to her? Digital cameras are small, and fast... is I KNEW I was having my picture taken for a story in the paper, I would have SMILED .. perhaps, she was blind-sided... just sayin'!

  • Unfair Treatment
    May 03, 2014 - 08:05

    This lady did nothing wrong. The Guardian is the one who would know the rules behind the hospital when it comes to news coverage. If they failed to follow procedure than the Guardian owes this lady an apology as well. Shame on the Commissionaires for not standing one of their own! There has been previous stories about parking and a picture was included so Guardian check to see if all your T's were crossed and your i's were dotted then or if this poor soul was used as an example.

  • Justin Curious
    May 03, 2014 - 07:30

    Well what next, a lady gets her picture taken by a media photographer and gets sacked by the QEH, what could she have done that was so wrong, She didn't take the picture, and who are the officers who are investigating this terrible deed, some high ranking high priced security firm from upper canada? What a bunch of retards.

  • Joe Citizen
    May 03, 2014 - 06:43

    Who comes up with these decision? Sue the miserable bastards for wrongful dismissal.

  • Unfair
    May 03, 2014 - 05:02

    Sounds a bit Athouritarian to me,heavy handed,overboard whatever .Is there political pressure by a sensitive Govt here.the most vulnerable ,the lowest link in the chain ...."low hanging fruit ....easy pickings....Something is behind this.

    • Gord
      May 03, 2014 - 10:43

      Stupid--I bet the employee didn't even know her pic was taken- What a joke--almost destroying a person;s livelihood