Fight to stop bed cuts and staff layoffs at St. Joseph’s Hospital gains momentum

Comox Valley residents and health care workers are heading to the May 19 Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) board meeting to express their opposition to planned cuts at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

This latest action is part of a growing, community-based fightback aimed at stopping bed reductions and staff layoffs, announced by hospital administration in late March.

“To date, more than 5,000 people have signed a petition demanding more long-term care beds in our community and increased funding for our hospital,” says HEU local executive member Barb Biley.

She says the plan to cut 18 acute care beds, lay off over two dozen RNs and LPNs, and create a 26-bed transitional care unit – all intended to save $1 million – was immediately opposed by doctors, nurses and the entire hospital staff.

Unions representing affected workers and the medical staff have demanded the St. Joseph’s Board of Directors stand up to VIHA and insist upon adequate funding for the hospital and long-term care. As an affiliate, St. Joseph’s board is independent from VIHA.

“More long-term care beds are desperately needed for seniors, many of whom are forced to remain in hospital for long periods of time, while waiting for a residential care placement,” says Biley.

On April 24, more than 400 people came out to a Town Hall meeting organized by the St. Joseph’s Health Coalition, which includes community members and health care workers. The demand for more long-term care beds in the community and additional funding for the hospital was loud and clear.

Two weeks later, on May 6, a day-long information picket outside the hospital drew overwhelming support from passers-by. And more than 50 people gathered at the hospital board’s monthly meeting, where board members agreed to extend the time period for implementing their cost-cutting plan for an additional 60 days.

The coalition is organizing buses from the Comox Valley to attend VIHA’s May board meeting.