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Nurse lay-offs loom as Fraser Health amalgamates public health units

North Delta Public Health Unit - File photo
North Delta Public Health Unit
— image credit: File photo

Fraser Health is set to move all staff from the South Delta Public Health Unit into North Delta, according to an amalgamation draft document obtained by the South Delta Leader.

The move is expected to change the staffing down to 13 public health nurses from the current 19, resulting in six layoffs of part-time public health nurses, while one full-time nurse will be hired.

The layoffs were confirmed by Debra McPherson, president of the B.C. Nurses' Union, who said the move by Fraser Health comes as people in the region are being warned about a measles outbreak and on the heels of cutbacks to evening mental health services.

“The job of the public health nurse is all about creating healthy communities and preventing diseases which could result in the long term reduction of health care costs," she said. "Seems odd that a government dedicated to cutting costs and producing healthy communities would take this kind of approach."

Fraser Health spokesperson Nafisa Abdulla, who confirmed the decision via email on Monday, said the change will result in an increased number of full-time staff, and a reduction in the number of part-time and casual staff.

Abdulla would not, however, confirm exact numbers, nor specify if any administration jobs would be affected by the change.

"The new staffing model, which is still being finalized, will allow staff to travel to the South Delta Public Health Unit to provide services to clients," said Abdulla. "Our intent is for there to be little to no impact for clients as they can continue to access services through the South Delta Public Health Unit.”

Those services include standard Public Health Unit operations such as immunization clinics and breastfeeding support.

"While we recognize that this change may pose a challenge for some clients, it will enhance our ability to meet the demand for services across the community," she said.

The change follows a recent review of public health nurse staffing levels at the North and South Delta Public Health Units, leading to a Fraser Health decision to amalgamate these two offices into one by the end of 2013.

The North Delta site will become the main site, while South Delta will operate as a "satellite site."

According to the draft amalgamation document, all remaining Public Health Nursing staff will be assigned to North Delta beginning Jan. 2, 2014.

Fraser Health operates 18 Public Health Units across the Lower Mainland, providing services and programs related to chronic and infectious diseases, smoking cessation, and public health education. They also offer nursing services which include screening, assessment, counselling, referral, follow-up and health promotion.

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