VANCOUVER - Cuts to the citys most innovative public health programs will take effect today, despite weeks of letter-writing, phone calls and last minute appeals urging the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority to reconsider its decision.
The public health cuts, announced by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority in April, target programs designed to improve the health status of children, seniors and other high risk populations in the city.
Public health workers are dismayed by the cuts, which in some cases wipeout more than 40 years of work in health promotion and harm reduction in the city.
The vision screening program, for example, which provides annual check-ups to every child enrolled in licensed day care centres, pre-schools and kindergarten classes in the city will be gone after today. The school immunization team, which visits every school in the city three times a year, also has been eliminated.
Nutrition programs for children and seniors, and volunteer programs for seniors and people in palliative care also are being reduced.
The childrens dental program, which sees about 15,000 children annually, is losing one of its two community clinics; while the childrens hearing program a model in western Canada - will see its budget reduced by 50%.
It all adds up to a devastating blow to public health in this city, says Paul Faoro, president of CUPE local 15, which represents about 700 public health workers in Vancouver.
He says CUPE members are incensed by the lack of consultation. Why did no one talk to our staff in the dental clinics about the possibility of billing the provincial government through the Healthy Kids Program? And why did no one consult with our audiologists about the need to conduct hearing testing in the soundproof environment of their mobile vans, instead school gyms?
Incredibly, a recent VCHA bulletin (Bulletin #12, May 6) outlines the five principles it used to make the cuts, including the need to place more emphasis on health promotion.
Although many community groups - from the Chinese Presbyterian Preschool to the Vancouver Section of the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada - have urged the government and the VCHA to rescind the cuts, their calls have fallen on deaf ears.
The VCHA claims to have a vision for health care reform, but judging by the public opposition to these cuts, its not one that others share, says Faoro.
The union intends to continue to pressure the VCHA to rescind the cuts before children return to school. The union has distributed 120,000 postcards to residents on Vancouvers eastside, urging the VCHA, Premier and Health Minister, to call off the cuts to public health.
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Paul Faoro or CUPE Local 15 staff rep Wendy Bice