HEU finds laundry privatization move 'deeply disappointing'

By James Peters
March 2, 2016 - 8:44am Updated: March 2, 2016 - 5:06pm

KAMLOOPS — The Hospital Employees Union says Interior Health could have done a better job explaining why it felt it needed to privatize laundry services at five sites across the region.

WATCH: Full story by Reporter Jessica Lepp

IH made its decision yesterday, signing a 20 year deal with a private service provider based in Kelowna.

The health authority says replacing aging laundry equipment to keep the in-house laundry service going is too expensive.

But the HEU's Jennifer Whiteside says IH didn't make that point in a very convincing fashion.

"It's not clear whether the [predicted $35 million] capital costs are over ten years as initially stated or over 25 years," said Whiteside. "It isn't clear what it would cost to replace one laundry versus another laundry. We know that there are some laundries where the capital cost would be more than in other situations."

The move to privatize is predicted to eliminate 93 full time equivalent positions in IH.

The health authority did decide to keep in-house laundry operating at six other sites.

B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake says, "the board decided it made businesses sense to centralize and privatize laundry services for the major sites in Interior Health. This has been done in the Lower Mainland. The cost savings have been realized. I understand and don't take any joy that families will be affected by job losses in Kamloops but it does preserve 35 million dollars over the life of the contract that will go into front line health care."

Kamloops Mayor Peter Milobar was surprised to hear the distribution centre would be located in Kelowna and not Penticton and Kamloops like he was originally told.

"It's just frustrating. It's another service that will be located in Kelowna. It makes it tougher each time this happens, in my opinion, to see other services out of Kelowna," says Milobar who adds, "in the long term we want to keep working with IHA. We don't want to poison the well because of this one thing but it's an indication of an ongoing thing. Frankly we shouldn't have to always be on guard with every single service that we currently have."


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