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Interior Health proceeds with next stage of privatizing laundry services

Nelson Daily Staff
By Nelson Daily Staff
February 11th, 2015

The writing appears to be on the wall for 17 full-time equivalent employees at Kootenay Lake Hospital laundry services as Interior Health enters the next stage of a process that will determine the future of its laundry services.

IH has started the process to seek Request for Solutions (RFS) from pre-qualified service providers identified through the recent Request for Qualifications process.

“We know this is difficult news for our employees who have worked hard to make our laundry plants efficient,” Alan Davies, Interior Health’s Director for Support Services, said in a media release.

“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 external providers for laundry services, allowing Interior Health to avoid significant capital costs associated with updating industrial Laundry equipment when it needs to be replaced.

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.

The sites offer linen services to hospitals, health centres and IH owned and operated residential care facilities.

Bonnie Pearson, HEU secretary-business manager, said the decision to move forward with plans to privatize laundry services is disappointing, but not surprising.

“Our members deliver an efficient and quality service to hospitals throughout the interior, and that fact has been acknowledged by the health authority,” Peason said on the HEU website.

“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,” Pearson adds.

The HEU said plan would affect hospital laundry facilities in 11 communities: Kelowna, Nelson, Vernon, Kamloops, Penticton, 100 Mile House, Williams Lake, Lillooet, Ashcroft, Golden and Princeton.

Kootenay Lake Hospital laundry services, which staffs 17 full-time equivalent positions and, including casuals, 25 laundry workers, processes laundry for all West Kootenay hospitals, including facilities in Trail, Castlegar, Grand Forks, Kaslo, New Denver and Nakusp.

Laundry services staff were provided an update today, which follows 90-days of consultation with their union to explore alternatives to going to the private market.

The initial announcement to explore options in regards to the future services in the 11 laundry sites was made November 12, 2014, due to what IH said was “higher costs and aging infrastructure.”

“We have stressed to our employees that nothing is changing today,” said Davies, noting the impact to staff is unknown and dependent on the outcome of the RFS, including the scope of laundry services and sites covered.

“We have a lengthy process in front of us, and the earliest we would anticipate any changes to laundry services would be spring 2016,”

Interior Health is moving forward with the RFS in conjunction with Lower Mainland health authorities which are currently retendering existing private contracts for laundry services.

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