IH delays its plan to contract out laundry services again

New deadline set for the end of March 2016 for the controversial privatization plan.

  • Nov. 25, 2015 5:00 p.m.

Just days after the Hospital Employee’s Union announced an SFU economist could not find a valid business case for contracting out Interior Health hospital laundry services in IH documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request, IH’s new chief executive officer has announced a final decision on the controversial plan has been postponed yet again.

Originally slated for the start of this year, the contracting out plan affecting laundry service at five major southern Interior hospitals, including Kelonwa General, and six smaller care facilities is now slated for March 2016, said IH CEO Chris Mazurkewich.

The plan has been delay several times and this  latest delay was welcomed as “good news,” by union.

“We’re pleased that under new leadership, the IHA is taking a serious look at the plans for hospital laundries,” said HEU secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside.

“So far, we have not seen any valid justification for the health authority to forge ahead with contracting out this efficient, publicly delivered service.”

The union says 175 jobs at the 11 facilities affected.

Since announcing last year that it would seek bids from the private sector to take over all or part of its laundry operations at the hospitals in Kelowna, Vernon, Kamloops, Penticton and Nelson, along with services in six smaller communities, IH has delayed a final decision on the plan several times.

“This in-house laundry operation has set the bar high in terms of productivity, efficiency and quality standards, according to the IHA itself,” said Whiteside. “We need the IHA to be a champion of protecting family-supporting jobs and a clearly well-run service in their region. That would be a win-win situation for everybody.”

IH says it need millions of dollars to improve laundry infrastructure but that money is not forthcoming from the province.

It has said in the past that the existing laundry services are run efficiently right now. Bow it needs to look to the future and infrastructure needs to be improved.

Recently, Simon Fraser University economist Marvin Shaffer reviewed two IHA documents, obtained by the union to analyze the health authority’s rationale for outsourcing its laundry services. He said he found no valid business case for privatization.

So far this year, municipal councils in Nelson, Kamloops, Williams Lake, Summerland, Vernon, and 100 Mile House have passed motions opposing the privatization scheme, and more than 12,800 names were collected on a petition calling on IH to retain the laundry services. That petition was presented to the provincial government in Victoria.


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