HEU petition demands improved rehab services

Health board's lack of vision catapults deteriorating state of rehab into provincial spotlight

At the September meeting of the Vancouver/Richmond Health Board, HEU activists from the closure-threatened G.F. Strong Centre turned out to tell board members that rehabilitation is suffering not only in the region but throughout the province. Fiscal restraint measures and outright cutbacks have touched every segment of rehab services to people with disabilities from admission to discharge. HEU/GFS local executive Mary McKinnon told the health board that its consolidation plan for the rehab services of G.F. Strong and George Pearson Centres—two public, tertiary facilities serving the entire province—threatens the state of rehab and lacks vision for the future. "We need improvements to rehabilitation. The demand for rehab services and housing is straining present resources," said McKinnon. "We can't afford to lose any more." And front line health workers at provincially-mandated GFS know that admission to the centre from outside the region is more difficult with Vancouver Hospital in control of the facility. As feared, the hospital appears to view G.F. Strong as an extension of itself, exercising priority over other B.C. hospitals when transferring patients from acute care. "Cranbrook Regional Hospital closed six rehab beds this summer and just announced they'll keep them closed until April, 2000. Gorge Road Hospital in Victoria has closed its rehab beds, too," said HEU assistant secretary-business manager Zorica Bosancic. "We need a government review of rehab services and a full public consultation that includes discussion of a provincial rehab agency with a province-wide mandate to better deliver improved rehabilitation services for all British Columbians." "As front line health care providers, HEU members everywhere need to keep rehab in the spotlight," said Bosancic. "That's why it is extremely important that locals talk to members and others in the workplace and the community, and gather as many signatures as possible on our petition demanding the improvement of rehab services (September 23 letter to secretary-treasurers)."