Health board vote keeps G.F. Strong open
People with disabilities, health care providers applaud board's decision for comprehensive, inclusive review of rehab services Four months of hard work paid off for people with disabilities, health care providers and advocacy organizations last night when the Vancouver/Richmond Health Board voted unanimously to pass on its controversial proposal that would have seen the G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre closed and its services relocated and consolidated with those of the George Pearson Centre at the Pearson site. Board members accepted recommendations to develop a strategic plan for adult and older adult rehab services over a 12 month period beginning early next year. The goal will be to improve services and programs to people with disabilities utilizing extensive consultation to be guided by a broad-based task force. That directly addresses two of the main concerns of stakeholders who had criticized the now-displaced plan's lack of consultation and fast-track time frames. "We are very pleased with this decision," said HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. "It demonstrates the board's willingness to listen to those most directly involved in rehabilitation - the people who use the services and the people who provide them. This report outlines steps and guidelines that will result in improved rehab services for all British Columbians." "It is particularly important that the board has recognized the expertise, knowledge and commitment that exists in the disability community and is now going to utilize that talent to move forward with its strategic planning for rehabilitation," said Margaret Birrell, executive director of the B.C. Coalition of People with Disabilities. "The Vancouver/Richmond Health Board has raised the profile of rehab services in the region and in the province and there's no going back." The recommendations are based on a technical feasibility study, operational cost implications and feedback received from people with disabilities and their families - including 7,500 petition signatures - advocacy groups, and health care workers and their unions. Recommendations include provision for the development of a human resources strategy; extensive consultation guided by a broad-based project task force; greater provincial leadership and accountability for rehab; and a single funding envelope for rehabilitation services.