Protesting nurses send message to Norfolk council

A group of public health nurses and supporters gathered at Governor Simcoe Square on Feb. 11 to protest the recent elimination of public health nurse positions. Melanie Holjak, Eric Robertson, Tamara Robb, and Stephanie Haley were among the nurses on site. Ashley Taylor/Delhi News Record jpg, DN

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Public health nurses and supporters gathered around Governor Simcoe Square on Feb. 11 with a message for Norfolk County Council.

The group, of around 30 people, circled the building with a blow horn during council’s weekly meeting to share their opinions on recent cuts to health and social services.

“The cuts they’ve made to the public health sector have really affected the vulnerable of our society,” said Janet Snow, who was she was out supporting the nurses. “If I have a choice of where my tax dollars go, I would rather they go to the vulnerable and into public health to help everyone than into a building that is not going to be accessible to everyone.”

The Haldimand Norfolk Board of Health recently cut two public health nurse positions and a nurse practitioner and also announced plans to eliminate some services including the one-on-one sexual health and smoking cessation programs.

The health unit currently offers one-on-one clinics, along with a public health nurse that travels throughout the community to provide sexual health services.

“The elimination of the clinics is going to be a devastating loss for this community,” said Melanie Holjak, a public health nurse at the Haldimand Norfolk Health Unit and the bargaining unit president for the Ontario Nurse’s Association.

“What I would like to communicate to council is that it isn’t too late to say ‘We made a mistake, we didn’t have the information that we needed,’” said Holjak. “I think the community would respect a council that would be willing to step up to the plate and make things right.”

Holjak added that a large number of the clients they see in the sexual health services do not have OHIP, so it is not as simple as transferring them to a family doctor’s care.

“I’m really hoping council will look at this more closely and really understand the impact on the community if the sexual health program is indeed cut,” said Holjak.