VANCOUVER – Staff cuts to frontline community health centres in Vancouver are irresponsible and potentially dangerous, says CUPE BC President Mark Hancock. "When you remove services, medical staff and frontline community health workers, you are going to impact patient care.”
Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) recently announced plans to displace medical and support staff from several public community medical centres as part of a so-called Primary Care Redesign. Yesterday those cuts were expanded to include 12 CUPE frontline community health workers at four of the five community clinics.
“What the provincial government and VCH are calling a ‘redesign’ is really a service cut. Local patients depend on local clinics in their communities that they can easily access," said Hancock, adding that "these services are for people who are sick, who are at risk and who need care. These cuts jeopardize access for our most vulnerable citizens and that jeopardizes patient care." Hancock added that loading patients onto one centre that is already understaffed would erode equal access and service.
VCH is shutting down primary medical care services at Evergreen, South Vancouver and Pacific Spirit Community Health Centres and cutting back services offered at the Pine and Mid Main clinics. Services will be centralized at the Raven Song clinic at Eighth and Ontario. The cuts will affect an estimated 15,000 patients. The health authority's own recent independent review recommended against cutting primary care services at community health centres.
VCH officially notified CUPE that 12 CUPE members will be displaced as part of its "redesign" by the end of October. The layoffs were announced at meetings organized by VCH at Pine Clinic and Pacific Spirit. The CUPE Local 15 members working at the clinics handle frontline administrative duties, appointments, front desk, information and medical records. They are a vital and integral part of the operation of the centres.
CUPE Local 15 president Leanne Toderian called it ironic that, "after promises to provide community-based and home health care, this 'Families First' provincial government and Vancouver Coastal Health are shutting those very services. It is the community that these cuts hurt the most and now the remaining staff at these sites will have to try to pick up the pieces. These clinics are already severely understaffed." Toderian added that "call it a redesign if you want, but at the end of the day medical staff and CUPE frontline community health workers are losing their jobs and that hurts health care."