Staff of the Peterborough County-City Health Unit are speaking out to stop cuts to front line health promotion and disease prevention services for the community. They question why the cuts are necessary when the Health Unit’s funding has not changed.
Under the Health Unit’s plan, there will be layoffs of a public health inspector, a nutritionist, and technical support staff. A public health nurse will also be cut by not filling a vacancy and a part-time health promoter’s contract will not be renewed. There will be no reduction of managers.
The services that will be affected include key programs such as health inspection, nutrition, injury prevention, and support for increasing the physical activity of children and adults.
“We are very concerned about our ability to continue to provide our community with the health services they need,” said Pam Pressick, president of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 4170.
“Front line public health staff are already stretched and with fewer of us, programs and services get even more limited,” said Suzanne Galloway, president of Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) Local 327.
In her 2010 annual report to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario released on December 1, Dr. Arlene King, the province’s Chief Medical Officer, said that, “good health starts in childhood, in our homes, our schools, our workplaces and our communities.”
Dr. King is calling for a comprehensive plan that is geared towards health promotion and chronic disease and injury prevention—exactly the type of work done by the staff who will be cut.
“The work that we do helps to prevent illness and chronic disease, saving costs by helping people avoid expensive hospital stays,” said Vicki McKenna, RN, First Vice-President of the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA). “Cutting front line public health services and staff is incredibly shortsighted.”
Just two months ago, the provincial government was re-elected on a promise to spare health care from cuts. Cuts to public health services are cuts to health care.
There are 55 members of CUPE who are employed by Peterborough County-City Health Unit as secretaries, public health inspectors, community workers, computer technicians, and registered practical nurses. The Unit employs 38 ONA members who work as registered nurses and public health nurses. OPSEU represents 21 Unit employees including health promoters, genetic counsellors, infant development workers, nutritionists, and dental hygienists.
For more information, please contact:
Wendy Forbes, CUPE Communications: firstname.lastname@example.org, 416-292-3999
Sheree Bond, Ontario Nurses’ Association: email@example.com, 416-964-1979 ext.2430, 416-986-8240