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Victorian Order of Nurses shutting operations in six provinces


The Victorian Order of Nurses has been struggling financially for years and recently decided that it had to shut down its operations in six provinces and cut the size of its head office, its president said Wednesday.

The non-profit health organization provides home nursing care and is closing programs in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador. It has also filed for protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.

President and CEO Jo-Anne Poirier said VON has been mulling the decision for more than two years and, after contemplating different options, it was forced to make "drastic changes."

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"This was a very a difficult but necessary decision to ensure that VON remains viable as an organization," Poirier said on a teleconference call. "I think that we were at a crossroads where we needed to become leaner and more efficient in order to provide quality services that our partners can afford."

The Ottawa-based organization, which is more than a century old, said its head office will shrink by 23 per cent. In total, 352 of 6,446 employees are affected by the restructuring, it said.

VON's operations in Ontario and Nova Scotia, its two main service areas, are not included in the restructuring and will remain intact.

Poirier said the amount the organization owes is sealed as part of a court order. The company went into receivership to protect employee wages, she added.

The organization said it has been a challenge to keep up with a growing number of clients with the resources it has.

"The provinces where we are ceasing operations, we had a relatively small presence," said Poirier. "Out west and east, there are many other service providers that have contracts with the government."

New Brunswick Health Minister Victor Boudreau said he's confident the government will be able to find other service providers to deliver VON's programs and services in the province.

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"There are other options out there, but obviously we're going to have to look at all the various programs they offered in the province ... and how other service providers will be able to help fill that void," said Boudreau.

Boudreau said his department will also look at finding jobs within the provincial health system for VON employees in New Brunswick.

Anne Sutherland Boal, CEO of the Canadian Nurses Association, said a growing number of Canadians, such as seniors, want care delivered at home and the change will make it more difficult to deliver those services.

"There will be challenges for gaps in care for people who need those services," said Boal, adding that the number of seniors is going to double by 2036. "We know Canadians want services closer to their home and in their home, so it's going to make that more difficult."

VON was established in 1897 and provides home nursing, corporate health and home support services.

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