Time is running out laundry employees at Kootenay Lake Hospital after Interior Health announced the new private company handling work will begin operation for the Nelson facility as of September 14.
Alan Davies, support services director for Interior Health, recently made the announcement.
“Given the magnitude of the change, we plan to stagger the closure of our five main plants over a three-and-a-half month period, beginning with our sites in the Okanagan in June,” Davies said in a written email.
“The last day of operations for Nelson will be September 14.”
The laundry operations will then be handled by Ecotex Healthcare Linen Service Inc. through a centralized Kelowna-based facility, supported by regional distribution centres.
Ecotex Healthcare Linen Service Inc. signed a 20-year agreement with Interior Health to provide the majority of linen and laundry services.
“We recognize this is a difficult time for our laundry staff and Interior Health reached an agreement last fall with the Hospital Employees Union that provides additional provisions to support our staff through this transition,” Davies explained.
“That agreement and the collective agreement we have in place is supporting the transition for our staff."
The laundry change impacts about 16 full-time equivalent positions at the Kootenay Lake Hospital facility.
Hospital Employees Union spokesperson Jennifer Whiteside said the moving of laundry operations “continues to be a wrong-headed decision.”
“Nelson was one of the most efficient laundry operations in Interior Health and we made it clear when IHA made the announcement that this was a terrible idea.”
Whiteside said eight of the 17 positions lost in the laundry centralization have found other positions with Interior Health, with one person being retrained.
However, the scope of losing 17 well-paying jobs in the Nelson, which handled laundry for most hospitals in the West Kootenay, including facilities in Trail, Castlegar, Grand Forks, Kaslo, New Denver and Nakusp, is a loss to the local economy that will be tough to replace.
And Whiteside questions whether union members would make the move to Kelowna to work for the new company which is offering $11.50 per hour compared to the starting HEU wage of $18.58 per hour.
Interior Health said the switch to Ecotexis expected to save $35 million over the life of the contract, which will increase investment capabilities in facilities and equipment to support direct patient care, including necessary upgrades and expansions of our emergency departments and operating rooms.
Along with Kootenay Lake Hospital, other laundry services affected includes Kelowna General Hospital, Kootenay Lake Hospital in Nelson, Penticton Regional Hospital, Vernon Jubilee Hospital, and Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops.
A total of 93 full-time equivalent positions will be impacted by this decision.
Davies said in Nelson,15 staff members have received notice to date. The few remaining notices will take place in the months ahead.
“To date, laundry staff have chosen a variety of options under the displacement process including: taking an enhanced severance package under their collective agreement, moving into other positions (housekeeping, food services, etc.) in Interior Health, opting for casual work in other jobs in IH, or retraining,” he said.
Ecotex is an experienced British Columbia based laundry service company and has provided laundry and laundry services for Vancouver Coastal Health, Fraser Health, Provincial Health Services, and Providence Health Care among other clients.