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Last day for a haircut in London-St. Thomas

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(LONDON-ST. THOMAS) – Today will be the last day to get a hair cut for patients at the Regional Mental Health Centre in London and St. Thomas.

The hairdresser employed by the centre was among 20 workers who received layoff notice last month. She is the only hairdresser for both the London and St. Thomas sites.

The hospital says the layoffs were necessary in order to balance its budget, but the union representing the workers says the cuts will affect patient services, and in some cases, result in higher costs.

"Instead of providing hairdressing on site, many of the patients will need two staff to accompany them into the city," says Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the 130,000 member Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). "When you add transportation costs, it is hard to believe this is going to save any money."

Staff are being asked to "assist patients by providing guidance to access hair salon services in the community."

The Centre says "alternate arrangements are being finalized to address the need for patients who are not able to attend the community for this service." However, no indication has been given as to what these "alternative arrangements" might be.

The union is also concerned that quality care is being compromised by the staff reduction. Staff cuts include nurses, therapists, recreationist, social worker, clerical, dietary and housekeeping staff.

The e-mail to staff at the Centre prompted a flurry of replies, most questioning the wisdom of this decision.

Writes one doctor: "She offered direct patient care to those who have been unable to gain access to community services due to mental illness, physical illness or poverty. Getting one’s hair done by Brenda had greatly helped the self esteem and sense of self worth of many of my patients as well as others. Just because Brenda is not able to prescribe prozac or olanzapine does not make her contribution to clinical care any less significant."

Another doctor stated on the e-mail chain: "Our patients are already "marginalized" and stigmatized by the society at large. By taking away what little they do have we are also promoting, aiding and abetting this STIGMA ourselves. How can we then tell our peers in the non-mental health settings and the society at large to dispel this stigma?

For more information:

Carol Warner at (519) 649-7771 or Kim McDowell at (519) 765-8660