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Vancouver Coastal Health Authority nixes VGH domestic violence program
By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours columnist
Vancouver General Hospital’s existing domestic violence program is being eliminated in a move called “shocking” and “brutal” by critics – but the health authority responsible insists the changes detailed in an internal memo obtained exclusively by 24 hours are actually an expansion of services.
In a July 26 memo to VGH emergency room physicians and staff, senior Vancouver Coastal Health managers say the program is being “reconfigured” and existing jobs there “realigned” to deal with adult abuse and neglect in addition to domestic violence.
But the B.C. Association of Social Workers says the move is “shocking” and “brutal” while New Democrat MLA Adrian Dix calls it “the wrong decision” that will hurt those in need.
“It’s absolutely brutal,” said Linda Korbin, BCASW executive director. “We’re very concerned they’re closing a program that sees so many people – 20 to 25 a week – and there’s nowhere else for them to go.”
But Vancouver Coastal Health spokesperson Anna Marie D’Angelo denies the program is being eliminated or the budget cut.
“There’s actually no cut in service. We increased the scope to meet the needs of patients,” D’ Angelo said Tuesday.
D’ Angelo admitted that long-time program director Kathleen MacKay, a social worker, must “re-apply” for a new position that includes dealing with adult abuse.
D’ Angelo added that an administrative position in the program will be eliminated and outpatient counseling at VGH will end, with community groups expected to offer those services.
Korbin said there had been no consultation process regarding ending the 18 year program operating out of the VGH emergency room.
Vancouver-Kingsway MLA Dix said the VCH memo says existing patients will “transition” to “similar counseling services available in the community” but existing non-profit organizations are already suffering cuts themselves.
“It’s clearly the wrong decision, the wrong approach,” Dix said. “This program has long been recognized and is the right way to go.”
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Korbin said the program is greatly needed.
“It’s important to have quick and safe access to professional staff,” she said.
D’ Angelo said the domestic violence program position was funded half by VGH and half by Providence Health Care and in the future VGH will fund a full time position with the new adult abuse duties added to domestic violence. The Providence funding for a half-time position remains, she said, but no decision has yet been made on how it will be used.
D' Angelo was unable to provide information on which community groups, if any, who will be asked to take over counselling services had been consulted prior to the decision to end the existing program. She added that there are five other social workers at VGH providing 24-hour services.
Dix warned that ending the program will force more people into emergency rooms as a result, something he says is happening in multiple locations at the direction of Health Minister Kevin Falcon.