The Hospital Employees’ Union issued a press release Thursday saying current laundry costs in the Lower Mainland should be raising red flags to the Interior Health Authority in its bid to privatization services at interior hospitals.
Financial statements obtained by the HEU show payments for private laundry contracts made by Vancouver Coastal Health, Fraser Health and Provincial Health Services authorities, as well as Providence Health Care (PHC), grew by $23 million, or 170 per cent, since 2007.
The union says that IHA could face a similar situation if it decides to sell off its existing laundry equipment and sign a ten-year deal to privatize hospital laundry services.
“We’ve been urging the IHA to adopt a made-in-the-Interior approach to maintaining a valuable and efficient service that supports quality health care,” said HEU secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside in the release.
“Contracting out this service puts 175 family-supporting jobs at risk in communities across the region. And the loss of expertise and equipment would severely limit the health authority’s ability to bring this service back in-house down the road.
“That’s definitely the situation facing Lower Mainland health authorities today.”
Whiteside says IHA should keep its options open by protecting its investment in efficient in-house laundry operations and equipment.
Interior Health announced in November 2014 a decision to explore options in regards to the future services in the 11 laundry sites — including Kootenay Lake Hospital — due to higher costs and aging infrastructure.
Laundry services are currently provided by Interior Health staff working at five large and six small laundry sites throughout the health region and all together has approximately 175 employees representing 100 full-time equivalent positions.
Kootenay Lake Hospital laundry services, which staffs 16 full-time equivalent positions, processes laundry for all West Kootenay hospitals, including facilities in Trail, Castlegar, Grand Forks, Kaslo, New Denver and Nakusp.
IHA invited a short list of vendors to bid on the work in February and is expected to make a decision later this month.
HEU looked at vendor payments made by Lower Mainland health authorities and PHC to K-Bro and Ecotex – the two private companies that cornered the hospital laundry market in the Lower Mainland more than a decade ago.
The HEU said in 2014, these health authorities paid the companies $36,623,025, up from $13,582,006 in 2007 – the earliest year for which data is available online for all four public bodies.
The HEU said There is growing public opposition to the privatization of hospital laundry services in the IHA.
Eight city and district councils have passed motions to protect jobs and hospital laundry in their communities, and more than 12,400 British Columbians have signed a petition, tabled last month in the provincial legislature, that opposed the move.