City council has joined other communities across the region by opposing the proposed privatization of laundry services by Interior Health.
“We are talking about 175 jobs being lost in our region,” Coun. Scott Nelson said before council voted unanimously to support keeping laundry services local at its regular meeting May 26.
“It is important those jobs stay here in rural B.C,” Nelson said, noting Cariboo Memorial Hospital is a major employer and economic generator with more than 350 employees. “We’re looking at an upgrade for our hospital right now and it’s important we make sure those jobs stay here.”
Cautioning council about “going down a slippery slope,” by trying to dictate how IH should run its business, Mayor Walt Cobb said he wouldn’t want IH to tell the city how to run its business.
“I don’t want to see the jobs lost for sure,” Cobb said. “I await to hear the information on how they think they are going to save money.”
During the month of June, IH will review the bids for laundry services that have come in from companies in the Lower Mainland and one from Alberta, said Alan Davies, regional director of support services for IH.
“We are expecting by the end of July and early August to know if IH wants to move forward on it,” he said of the proposed privatization.
IH’s request for laundry proposals is being done in partnership with Vancouver, Coast and Fraser Health Authority, Davies said.
“Their contract for laundry services is up in November and they basically have to make a decision with which vendor they would like to choose.”
With laundry equipment aging, the challenge for IH is looking for money to replace it in the future, and matching those requests against those for medical equipment, Davies said.
In hospitals the size of those in Williams Lake or 100 Mile House, the cost of a small commercial washing machine is about $25,000 and half of that for a drier, much less than the $1.5 million to replace the tunnel machines used in larger hospitals.
If the laundry services are centralized, Davies confirmed it will impact jobs related to washing hospital linens, however, the hospital would still need someone to ensure the residents’ personal laundry is all taken care of.
So far city council has not been provided a business plan by IH to make a case for centralizing laundry services, said Coun. Ivan Bonnell.
“It’s a public service, and there should not be any changes without public consultation,” he suggested.