VANCOUVER Public health workers providing services to children and high-risk populations in the city are being given pink slips today, as part of the cost-cutting plan announced last month by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority.
More than 100 public health employees responsible for school immunization programs, speech pathology, inner city school meal programs, vision screening and hearing programs have been told their services wont be needed after June 28. The front line health providers are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the B.C. Nurses Union.
The news has stunned the public health community, as the cuts target some of the most innovative health promotion and harm reduction programs in the province.
The school immunization team is one example. Established in 1989 to meet the needs of Vancouvers transient, school population, the 14-member team is responsible for immunizing every child enrolled in public and private schools in the city. The team visits each school at least three times a year and maintains records of each childs immunization history.
Its an excellent program, says Lois Collier, a nurse on the immunization team. Its efficient. Its effective. And its succeeded where conventional programs have failed. But under the VCHAs plan, the entire team will be eliminated.
Other innovative programs designed to meet the unique needs of Vancouvers population also are being cut.
The Small Talk Program, a centre for pre-schoolers with profound speech and language disorders, will lose its speech and language pathologist. The vision screening program, which provides annual check-ups to every child enrolled in licensed day care centres, pre-schools and kindergarten classes in the city, will be abolished.
Mr. Faoro, president of CUPE Local 15, says the cuts are not only short-sighted, they violate the VCHAs own principles for health restructuring, including the promise that more resources would be invested in illness prevention, education and harm reduction.
The sad reality is nearly every area of our work concerned with health promotion or prevention is being cut, he says.
Mr. Faoro also questions the authoritys claim that the redesign of health care puts patients at the top of the list. Certainly, they werent thinking of infants, children, youth, or seniors when they made this announcement.
The public health workers want the authority to reconsider the program cuts. If the authority is genuinely concerned with meeting the health care needs of our diverse population, then these types of innovative public health programs must be supported, not eliminated.
For more information call:
Beth Smillie, CUPE communications,
604-291-1940, ext.223 or
Shirley Ross, BCNU Campaign Officer,