By Richard Rolke
How to provide laundry will be put the through the wringer at Interior hospitals.
On Aug. 12, the Interior Health Authority (IHA) notified unionized staff it’s exploring the future of laundry service and specifically whether using a private contractor is financially feasible.
“There is no predetermined option,” says Lori Holloway, IHA regional director of facilities management.
IHA currently has five large and six small laundry sites with 175 employees.
In 100 Mile House, there are three full-time equivalent staff members.
“We want to ensure we have a sustainable laundry service,” adds Holloway of the need for the review.
“We have limited capital dollars to support our aging infrastructure.”
IHA spends about $10 million a year to operate the laundry service and it’s believed about $10.5 million is needed over the next several years to replace equipment, such as washing machines.
“Interior Health is not in a position to make significant investments in laundry, but rather place priority on the most pressing patient care needs, such as medical equipment, and development of new or upgraded patient care spaces,” states a release.
This week, IHA, along with Lower Mainland health authorities, will issue a joint request for qualification to see if private companies are interested in providing laundry services.
IHA is also meeting with the Hospital Employees Union, which represents laundry staff, to discuss alternatives beyond going to the private sector.
“Nothing is changing today. We are just in the process of determining our options,” says Holloway, who wouldn’t speculate on possible options that could see the service continue under IHA’s mandate.
The earliest any changes could occur is April 2016, but HEU hopes privatization can be stopped.
“We’re really disappointed IHA is considering contracting out,” says Mike Old, HEU communications director.
“Clearly these are important jobs to our members, their families and their communities. They deliver a quality service to the health-care system.”
Old says the union will participate in the consultation process with IHA.
“Our experience is that contracting out results in lower wages for employees and less control over the service by the health authority.
“We will try and make sure we protect these jobs and the service.”
Richard Rolke is a reporter for the Vernon Morning Star.