Overflow crowd packs rehab forum

News release

Stakeholders tell health board—start again, improve rehab services The message to the Vancouver/Richmond Health Board from the overflow crowd at yesterday's public forum on the proposed closure of the G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre and the future of rehabilitation services was loud and clear—start again and do it right. "People want the current proposal shelved because the focus is buildings and land rather than rehab services and programs. It's a cart-before-the-horse approach," says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. "The consensus was put services first and produce a sound plan that will enhance rehab and guarantee concrete improvements in this critical area of health care." Stakeholders urged the health board to abandon its self-imposed November vote to accept or reject the proposal, and wait until the completion of its own review of rehab programs and services in the region—set to begin in January, 2000—before taking any further action. "Many participants had concerns with the province's two tertiary rehab centres, G.F. Strong and George Pearson Centre, being under the control of Vancouver Hospital, B.C.'s largest acute care facility," says B.C. Coalition of People with Disabilities executive director Margaret Birrell. "People recognized the differences between the health and wellness culture in rehabilitation with its emphasis on quality of life, and the institutional, medical model that dominates acute care." More than 90 people took part in the two-hour forum where discussion also prompted calls for an open and transparent, community-based consultation process, and for the creation of a provincial body to coordinate and oversee rehabilitation services province-wide. The independent forum was organized by the B.C. Coalition of People with Disabilities, the Hospital Employees' Union and the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union to open up consultation on the fate of G.F. Strong, George Pearson Centre and the future of rehab services in the region and in B.C.