Community workers at a Needle Syringe Program run by Monash Health successfully won the right to be considered for redeployment at a Fair Work Commission hearing yesterday.
The hearing was the latest step in the VHPA’s efforts to prevent the closure of the Needle Syringe Program and the loss of up to nine jobs for Community Workers.
Since the announcement of the Program’s closure, the VHPA has worked with the affected members to either prevent the redundancies or get the best possible outcomes.
The VHPA’s Industrial Officer, Alex Leszczynski, sought the hearing on the basis that Monash Health had not properly consulted with staff over the changes.
“Despite our efforts so far, including successfully gaining coverage in The Saturday Age newspaper, Monash Health seemed determined to proceed with the redundancies without properly exploring the option of redeploying staff into new positions,” said Alex Leszczynski.
“However, following the successful hearing at Fair Work, we will meet with our members at the Needle Syringe Program and Monash Health next week to discuss opportunities for redeployment,” he said.
Concern over rise in needle-stick injuries
The decision by Monash Health to close its Needle Syringe Program could lead to a rise in needle-stick injuries from discarded syringes in parks and playgrounds across Melbourne’s eastern and southern suburbs says the VHPA.
The Monash Health Needle Syringe Program has grown into Melbourne’s second biggest dispenser of clean injecting equipment after St Kilda Access Health.
The Program has successfully addressed needle hotspots in Springvale and surrounding suburbs since 2000 when a spate of heroin overdoses prompted a public outcry.
A central feature of the Needle Syringe Program is the use of an easily accessible shopfront and regular outreach foot patrols that are staffed by Community Development Workers.
Monash Health plans to scrap the foot patrols and replace the Program with a ‘Primary Care Clinic’ that focuses on the medical treatment of drug users by nurses and GPs.
“This is a short-sighted decision that may cost nine valuable community workers their jobs,” said Craig McGregor, VHPA Secretary.
“The workers who serve the community of Springvale in getting drug users to hand in their dirty syringes will lose their jobs and the closure of the program will bring to an end nearly fifteen years of servicing Springvale, Noble Park and the Dandenong community.”
“Local shopkeepers and business will be dismayed to find they no longer have the help they need to keep their community safe.”
“We all want to see drug users get the best medical treatment they can but it shouldn’t be at the expense of a successful community program.”
“There are concerns that Monash Health may require injecting drug users to see a nurse and undergo a compulsory health assessment each time they request injecting equipment or safe sex items.”
“Setting up these sorts of barriers to accessing clean syringes and condoms is a recipe for disaster. That’s why the outreach and shopfront program has been so successful in minimising the harm from drug use for both users and the local community,” said Mr McGregor.
Both the Greater Dandenong Mayor, Angela Long and the Chief Executive of harm-reduction group Anex, John Ryan were reported in The Saturday Age as expressing concern over the closure by Monash Health.
The Saturday Age, page 7.