G.F. Strong rehab services, staff threatened by health board plan

HEU launches campaign to raise rehab's profile and improve services to people with disabilities

The G.F. Strong Centre, a tertiary rehabilitation facility for the entire province, may be closed and relocated to the site of George Pearson Centre if the Vancouver/Richmond Health Board approves a current plan for the reconfiguration of rehab services in the region. Thatís an unexpected flip-flop of an earlier proposal that called for the closure of George Pearson Centre, the sale of its site, and the relocation of those services. HEU joined with others to oppose that plan and now the union is rallying opposition to the current proposal. That's because: • relocation will result in a reduction of inpatient and outpatient services. Experience shows that services will simply be "lost" with relocations and consolidations; • privatization is a real possibility in this picture. Public delivery of rehab services is being eroded in the province, and private, for-profit companies are picking up the pieces. That's a scenario that reduces public accountability and undermines access to these services for all British Columbians; • jobs will be lost under this planóa plan that includes a $4 million per year cut in operations. For HEU members that could mean a reduction of 78 positions with food services the most vulnerable area; • the plan shows that decision-makers don't understand the importance of rehab and the critical role it plays in our health care system; • the process is flawed, especially as it fails to consult clients and their families, advocacy groups, front-line health care providers and other concerned parties; and • rehab services should never have been regionalized—they should be managed provincially like cancer prevention and ambulance services. HEU is launching a campaign to keep G.F. Strong as a free-standing, public facility and to defend rehab services province-wide, and all HEU locals will be involved. Elements of the campaign include: a public awareness initiative to raise the profile of the importance of rehab services in our health care system; a petition calling for a halt to plans to close/relocate G.F. Strong, and for an ongoing commitment from the health board and the provincial government to improve rehab; lobbying of the Vancouver/Richmond Health Board, other regional health authorities, and local and provincial politicians; and a public forum in October to ensure that public consultation is part of the process.