Local government supports laundry services

Joint committee resolves to rally for four local jobs

New Democrat MLAs Jennifer Rice (North Coast)

New Democrat MLAs Jennifer Rice (North Coast)

The South Cariboo Joint Committee will write Interior Health (IH) petitioning it to preserve in-house hospital laundry services and protect community jobs, after passing this resolution at a May 4 meeting.

Hospital Employees Union (HEU) 100 Mile House chair Barb Matfin says she is pleased to see this committee, made up of District of 100 Mile House and Cariboo Regional District (CRD) representatives, stand up for the four local employees potentially affected by IH’s move toward privatization.

“We’re very happy the District and the CRD are supportive of local jobs.”

Matfin explains she believes the move by IH is ideological, based on the attitude of the provincial government and its Bill 29 that allows – even persuades – health authorities to privatize unionized public services.

“This comes from the B.C. Liberals. They tell Interior Health that they are not going to provide them the funds sufficient to replace aging machines [at five large industrial plants in the region].

“Now, in 100 Mile, we don’t have aging machines, our machines are actually pretty good.”

Health Minister Terry Lake says he does not consider hospital laundry services as health care, she notes.

“Laundry in our local facility is part of health care – the same as housekeeping, the same as the kitchen,” says Matfin. “We all are a team in the hospital.”

The local HEU chair adds she fears these teams will dissolve if this move by IH succeeds.

Local nurses may lose the ability to directly request clean laundry items when needs arise, such as extra scrubs needed for doctors in the emergency room, which currently involves a quick call to the basement, she explains.

“With a privatized company it doesn’t work that way. There might not even be anybody to phone.”

The “dirty job” of handling contaminated laundry is considered unimportant, despite the gruelling and often extremely unpleasant nature of the task, Matfin adds.

“It is dangerous work, that laundry is soaked with dangerous germs and contaminants.”

She explains the province values nurses, bedside care and acute care in hospitals, but not the other roles often filled by women in health care, such as in kitchen, housekeeping, laundry and long-term care.

Mayor Mitch Campsall says any capital purchases for hospitals involve a 40-per-cent contribution from local governments, so these services should remain as they are now.

“We put [equipment money] in anyway, so let’s not take jobs from our community.

“We have the seniors complexes that use that laundry service as well, so we are going to lose that.

“It hurts the community – it is more than just the hospital.”

Matfin adds people may believe privatization doesn’t matter as the jobs are still there – but those are not family-supporting jobs that benefit communities, as they pay barely more than minimum wage.

The HEU posts current information on the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/KeepLaundryPublic.