On The Block:Profiles Of VSEA Members Whose Jobs The Governor Wants To Cut

Meet Ronnie Robinson, a Public Health Nurse who works for the Department of Health in White River Junction.

“This is Vermont. We care about our friends and neighbors. What’s happened to that?”

Employee Profile
Ronnie Robinson
Public Health Nurse
Department of Health
White River Junction
State Employee Since 1994                  
            Longtime VSEA member and activist Ronnie Robinson isn’t afraid to speak out and ask questions, so when she learned that her name is included on the list of positions to be cut, she was one of the first VSEA members to volunteer to help the union fight the cuts.
            “I have worked for the state of Vermont for 15 years, and I have a family to care for, but what saddens me most about the Governor’s ‘cuts only’ solution is how he is choosing turn his back on the Vermonters who need public services now more than ever,” says Robinson. “It just isn’t right.”
            Robinson, a Public Health Nurse, admits she  cannot speak to the revenue and tax issues surrounding the State cuts , she’ll leave that to others , but can speak to the human element involved and how Vermonter’s lives will be effected by the proposed cuts and what this will mean to their lives.
            “I can tell you about the pain we see daily as clients show up at the Health Department’s door, looking for services of all kinds,” explains Robinson. “Many are desperate. They have lost their jobs, sometimes their home, and they are frightened. Some are disabled and many have small children that they no longer feel able to provide for. Often, they look to us for help.”
            Robinson wears many hats in her job. Some days you’ll find her working directly for the Healthy Childcare Vermont Program and others you’ll find her teaching child care providers about important health and safety issues. Some days she assumes her role as co-coordinator of a local HIV Program, working with high risk teens to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases,  and others she’s staffing an immunization clinic for children and adults in need. And then some days she conducts WIC (Women, Infants and Children) clinics to ensure needy Vermonters are receiving proper nourishment. As you can see, she keeps busy!
            The hope and help we try to bring to our clients is not in our job descriptions. It’s about caring on a personal level. Robinson states,  “What me and my co-workers do –and will continue to do—is bring in food and clothes, provide rides to those who need them and find resources to make sure their needs are met. Sometimes we’ll even bring food from our own homes for State sponsored gatherings because we truly do care.”
            Robinson adds that she is also one of the State’s First Responders. In the event of a biological, chemical or any other kind of terrorist attack on the United States members of the VDH keep their “go bags” packed in their cars so they might be prepared to respond to any State needs should an alert be called.
            As a member of the State’s emergency preparedness team,” she explains. “We’re the ones who would set up smallpox or anthrax clinics around the State to protect the population if an attack should occur. This service would not try to protect just the poor, but rather all Vermonters. Because State Health Dept. offices are Community based, it is yet another reason to keep all offices opened and fully functioning. Many dollars and hours have been spent training us and it is doubtful that an outside agency would be as ready and committed to the citizens of Vermont as we are.
            Asked what she thinks about the Governor’s decision to cut her position, Robinson, again, immediately jumps to the human impact rather than the impact on her personally.
            “I don’t know where a lot of people who I’ve come to know well over the years are going to go now for help and that really bothers me,” says Robinson. “This is Vermont and what is proposed is just not right.  We care about our friends and neighbors. The time to cut and run is not when people are facing the most dire and desperate need we have ever witnessed. I feel this is a time to hold fast, keep our services intact and provide some stability to a situation that is nearly out of control. The Vermont way is to stick together and protect our own.  We can’t do that with any more cuts that threaten the infrastructure of our State system.