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Nursing staff with the VON in Windsor face an uncertain future after their employer lost its contract to provide home care for the elderly and infirm in the southern Ontario city. Up to 250 RNs, RPNs and clerical staff, members of CUPE 3741 and 4161, could be out of work as soon as August 1.

The Victorian Order of Nurses was undercut in a bidding war with for-profit health care providers, including Olsten, the American-based company that recently lost its contract in Manitoba.

“The VON has provided quality care for over 70 years in this community,” said Donna McMahon, president of Local 3741. “This process puts the bottom line ahead of patient care.”

Home care services in Ontario are managed by a network of Community Care Access Centres that award contracts using a competitive-bidding system. The VON now handles 80 per cent of home care in the community but for the coming year they’ve been shut out with the contract split among three companies: Olsten, Comcare and St. Elizabeth Health Care.

“A big chunk of the funding to commercial operators will go to profit instead of home care,” said Lynn Long, president of Local 4161. “Home care should be a public service, operated on a non-profit basis. Now we won’t have any accountability in the system.”

After years of service from the same qualified staff, many elderly are traumatized by the change and the move has been described as a d0069saster’ by the president of the local medical society.

Concerned citizens are circulating a petition, calling upon the province to intervene to reverse the move.

Messages of support can be faxed to the locals c/o the Windsor area office at (519) 966-9598.