Interior Health is entering the next stage of a process to determine the future of its laundry services by seeking Requests for Solutions (RFS) from pre-qualified service providers identified through the recent Request for Qualifications process.
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.
“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 statement released Wednesday, February 11. “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 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.
“We have stressed to our employees that nothing is changing today,” Davies said. “We have a lengthy process in front of us, and the earliest we would anticipate any changes to laundry services would be spring 2016.”
The IHA claims the impact to staff is unknown and dependent on the outcome of the RFS, including the scope of laundry services and sites covered. However, the Health Employees Union begs to differ and says it could result in the loss of in-house hospital laundry services along with 175 family-supporting jobs in 11 communities.
HEU secretary-business manager Bonnie Pearson said in a statement that 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 the Interior, and that fact has been acknowledged by the health authority,” she said. “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.”