Public health workers providing services to children and high-risk populations in the Vancouver area have been given “pink slips” as part of the cuts announced last month by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority.
More than 100 public health employees responsible for immunization programs, speech pathology, inner city school meal programs, vision screening and hearing programs have been told their services won’t be needed after June 28. The front line health providers are members of CUPE and the BC 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. A school immunization team designed to meet the needs of Vancouver’s transient, school population and program for pre-schoolers with profound speech and language disorders are among the targets.
Paul Faoro, president of CUPE Local 15, says the cuts are not only short-sighted, they violate the VCHA’s 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.
Faoro also questions the authority’s claim that the redesign of health care puts patients at the top of the list. “Certainly, they weren’t thinking of infants, children, youth, or seniors when they made this announcement.”