Since Interior Health’s announcement in November of 2014, concerns regarding the privatization of our hospital’s laundry service have been voiced by the public, the union, and in various city council chambers.
Initially the focus was on the logistics and environmental impact of trucking laundry to Vancouver or even Alberta.
Then the focus shifted to the farming out of local jobs to another city or province.
Recently the focus has been on the cost of such a move, which ultimately is the most important factor when deciding how to serve the best interests of the taxpaying majority.
In a letter to the editor, the MLA for the region, Eric Foster, delivered his justification of the move to privatization.
Vague statements , unsubstantiated claims, downplaying of serious issues and misdirection are not the content I would hope to see in a communication from an elected official to the people who he is supposed to be serving.
In that final paragraph on the topic, Mr Foster wrote: “Laundry services have already been successfully contracted out by Lower Mainland and Island health authorities, allowing any money saved to go to enhancing direct patient care”
First of all, to the best of my Knowledge, only one of VIHA’s 150 facilities has a privatized laundry service.
Mr. Foster implies that money is saved and goes to enhancing patient care, but he doesn’t actually say any money is saved.
If you asked him directly, I suspect he would point to the equipment that they didn’t have to buy or maintain, but would not mention the end cost of the contractor to the taxpayer.
From whose perspective would the contracting out on the Lower Mainland be deemed successful?
Admittedly, the government was successful in getting rid of unionized public employees at in-house facilities and sending the laundry to a private, for-profit contractor.
Was this successful for the taxpayer though?
Recently published figures, from the government, show that the amounts paid to Lower Mainland contractors in 2014 were 270 per cent of the amount paid out in 2007.
With our in-house staff working under a collective agreement you can pretty much count on the government limiting wage increases to about one per cent per year.
The only way to compare the cost efficiency of IHA’s in-house service to the privatized service used by the Lower Mainland health authorities is to compare the per pound cost of processing.
After comparing those figures, add on the cost of trucking our linens back and forth to Vancouver, Calgary or Edmonton every single day.
The government knows the cost comparisons, but they don’t want you or anyone else to know them. When questioned about the skyrocketing cost of privatized laundry on the Lower Mainland, Interior Health’s response was that they were: “not in a position to speak on the cost increases in the Lower Mainland and that it’s unaware of the specifics of the contract.”
Mr. Foster, and his colleagues in Victoria are trying to paint a pretty picture of privatization to the taxpayer, but they seem to have only a box full of grey crayons to work with.
So, why, I ask you, would Interior Health want to divest itself of a very efficient laundry operation, as well as the employees that make future costs predictable?
Why would they give up all of the infrastructure necessary to do the job themselves, at a known cost, in favour of an uncertain future dealing with for-profit contractors?
That’s the part that’s hard to figure out. Maybe IHA doesn’t really want to do that?
Then again, maybe they aren’t the ones calling the shots here?