24 hours exclusive
Battered Women’s Support Services and Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter strongly oppose closure of Vancouver General Hospital's domestic violence program
BC Association of Social Workers urges reversing decision by Vancouver Coastal Health Authority
By Bill Tieleman, 24 hours columnist
Two groups that support women victims of domestic violence say they were not consulted about closing Vancouver General Hospital’s existing domestic violence program, with one calling it “outrageous”.
And both Battered Women’s Support Services and Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter say no consultation occurred despite an internal Vancouver Coastal Health Authority memo obtained exclusively by 24 hours that says existing VGH outpatients will be “transitioned” to community counseling services.
“It’s outrageous,” Angela Marie MacDougall, BWSS executive director said Thursday. “No, we don’t have the resources – we have 100 women on a waitlist right now for counseling.”
MacDougall said BWSS has 50 new cases of domestic violence weekly and no excess capacity to take on additional work currently done by the VGH program, which she called an “incredible resource”.
Vancouver Coastal spokesperson Anna Marie D’Angelo said Thursday that “we do not consult with external agencies when making these types of changes” because unionized positions are impacted.
D’Angelo denied the program was closing, instead saying Tuesday it was “expanding” to also cover adult abuse.
But D’ Angelo admitted VGH outpatient counseling will end, with community groups picking up that work, that current program director Kathleen MacKay must “reapply” for a new position and that a support position will be eliminated.
Rape Relief spokesperson Daisy Kler said Thursday she learned of the VGH decision by reading a 24 hours story Wednesday.
“It’s a very crucial service for women – there are not enough of these programs and to lose one – we’re very concerned,” Kler said.
The B.C. Association of Social Workers calls the decision - outlined in a July 26 Vancouver Coastal internal memo – “shocking” and “brutal”.
“Who will die or suffer significant injuries as the result of the program closure?” BCASW Executive Director Linda Korbin asked Wednesday.
In a news release Korbin says the BCASW is urging Vancouver Coastal to restore the domestic violence program at VGH and seek other funding for additional adult abuse services.
"The program, which has been operating as an Emergency based program since 1992 and as an outpatient clinic for ten years, has served hundreds of clients who have been referred from hospital, community physicians, psychiatrists and community agencies, including transition houses," the release states.
"Currently the program serves 20 to 25 people per week.
There is no evidence that community domestic violence programs have the capacity to absorb these victims of abuse into their caseloads, or that there are any alternate options for timely help for the individuals and their children who are being served by this highly respected program."
NOTE: This is a longer and edited version of the story that ran in 24 hours newspaper Friday