In-house laundry ending Thursday at Kelowna General Hospital

Click to play video: 'Controversial privatization of Okanagan hospital laundry goes ahead'
Controversial privatization of Okanagan hospital laundry goes ahead
Controversial privatization of Okanagan hospital laundry goes ahead – Jun 16, 2017

Thursday was the last day hospital laundry was provided in-house at Kelowna General Hospital.

The change is part of a controversial plan Interior Health (IH) announced last year to contract out a large portion of their in-house laundry service.

The union representing laundry staff said, once the new system is fully implemented laundry service will be outsourced at five main locations including Vernon (where in-house laundry has already ended), Kelowna and Penticton.

The Hospital Employees’ Union vehemently opposed the outsourcing and the job losses that would come along with it.

“These were good family-supporting jobs,” said Megan Korol with the Hospital Employees’ Union.

“To suddenly have their livelihoods taken away from them like that is pretty devastating.”

READ MORE: UPDATED: Interior Health opts to outsource laundry

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When it announced the move the health authority defended the privatization and said it would save $35 million over two decades. IH said the change would allow the health authority to spend more on “facilities and equipment to support direct patient care.”

The changes mean 99 positions are being cut around the health authority. However, some staff opted for retraining or moved to jobs in housekeeping or food services.
Roughly 35 people are being put out of work as a result of the outsourcing.

A private firm called Ecotex, Healthcare Linen Service will be centralizing laundry services in Kelowna. It said that will create 75 jobs paying between $11.75 and $17.75 an hour.
That’s less than the Interior Health positions, which the union said mostly paid between $18.68 and $21.26.

READ MORE: Hospital union doing its homework in new campaign against laundry privatization

The union is also concerned about quality.

“Quite often that is a huge issue when you are paying workers way less… and expect the same quality of care,” Korol said.

However, the health authority said the private firm is contractually obligated to meet a high standard of quality.

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The company said its Kelowna facility is state-of-the-art.

The union said in-house laundry service will continue in six other locations including Princeton.

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