There are two full-time jobs at stake in the East Kootenay Regional Hospital as Interior Health moves closer towards privatizing their laundry services.
IH announced on Wednesday that it is seeking a request for solutions (RFS) from pre-qualified service providers, which will determine what options are available for using external providers for laundry services.
Across the IH jurisdiction, 175 jobs in 11 communities will be affected.
“We know this is difficult news for our employees who have worked hard to make our laundry plants efficient, said Alan Davies, Interior Health’s 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.”
Laundry services are currently provided by Interior Health staff working at five large and ad six small laundry sites throughout the health region. The sites offer linen services to hospitals, health centres and IH owned and operated residential care facilities.
The announcement comes at the end of a 90-day consultant period mandated under the health authority’s collective agreement with the Hospital Employees’ Union during with alternatives to contracting out were considered.
HEU secretary-business manager Bonnie Pearson says the decision to proceed with plans to privatize laundry services is disappointing, but not surprising.
“Our members deliver an efficient and quality service to hospitals throughout Interior, a fact that has been acknowledged by the health authority,” said Pearson. “But Interior Health is under pressure to privatize the service in the region, putting good jobs that support local communities and families at risk.
“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.”
According to a HEU spokesperson, capital costs to upgrade laundry equipment will require a $10 million price tag over 10 years.
Pearson says the HEU will work with it’s members to campaign and build support for the protection of in-house hospital laundry services and jobs.
IH confirms that no changes are in the immediate future.
“We have stressed to our employees that nothing is changing today,” said Davies. “We have a lengthy process in front of us and the earliest we would anticipate any changes to laundry services would be spring 2016.”
It is unknown at this time what impact that will have on staff and will be dependent on the outcome of the RS.