A move towards privatized laundry at Interior hospitals continues to draw fire from employees.
The Interior Health Authority is entering the next stage of a process that will determine the future of its laundry services, by seeking private sector bids.
“Our members deliver an efficient and quality service to hospitals throughout the Interior, and that fact has been acknowledged by the health authority,” said Bonnie Pearson, Hospital Employees Union secretary-business manager.
“But Interior Health is under pressure to privatize the service in the region, putting good jobs that support local communities and families at risk.”
IHA currently has five large and six small laundry sites with 175 employees. In Vernon, there are 15 full-time equivalent staff.
“We know this is difficult news for our employees who have worked hard to make our laundry plants efficient,” said Alan Davies, IHA director for support services.
“But as we’ve noted from the outset, the decision to explore alternatives isn’t about the efficiency of our operations. It’s about avoiding future significant spending to replace aging equipment, an investment we can’t make when considering other health-care medical equipment priorities.”
The RFS will determine what options may be available for using private contractors for laundry services.
Laundry services staff have been provided an update about the situation, which follows 90 days of consultation with their union to explore alternatives to going to the private market.
“We have stressed to our employees that nothing is changing today. We have a lengthy process in front of us, and the earliest we would anticipate any changes to laundry services would be spring 2016,” said Davies.
He added that the impact to staff is unknown and dependent on the outcome of the RFS, including the scope of laundry services and sites covered.
Pearson says the decision to proceed with plans to privatize laundry services is disappointing, but not surprising.
“If the provincial government is really serious about a jobs plan that works for all British Columbians, they need to make the modest investments in the Interior that would protect decent, family-supporting jobs that exist right now,” she said.
Pearson added that the union will work with its members to campaign for the protection of in-house hospital laundry services and jobs.