In the BC legislature on Thursday morning, MLA Michelle Mungall presented a 12,423-signature petition to Health Minister Terry Lake calling for the government to halt the Interior Health Authority’s plan to privatize hospital laundry services.
Sitting in the public gallery was Sofia Dricos of Nelson, a laundry worker at Kootenay Lake Hospital. Earlier in the day on the steps of the legislature, she and other hospital workers had presented the petitions to Mungall and opposition health critic Judy Darcy.
In an interview with the Star, Dricos expressed her surprise the number of signatures.
“It blew our socks off,” she said. “We were so excited when we heard. It really uplifted us. We had hoped for 5000.”
Mungall says she was not surprised.
“People get this,” she said. “They get the importance of the jobs. Nobody wants to get a surgery bumped because the clean laundry is stuck on the other side of a mountain pass in the winter.”
Dricos has worked in health care for 29 years, and in the laundry for the past ten. She is the chair of her HEU local and the chair of the HEU laundry committee.
Asked why she thinks so many people signed, Dricos said, “The communities really care about losing jobs. We are in a small community and we have seen health care deteriorate over the years.
“Having laundry trucks from Alberta or Vancouver is the craziest idea I ever heard of. And they are not going to hire us because we are in the union, and we would have to move.”
The health ministry did not respond to the Star‘s request for a comment specifically about the petition, but sent this more general comment in an email:
“Interior Health’s laundry service facilities are aging and will require significant investment to bring them up-to-date in the coming years. As we know, health authorities only have so much money for capital projects, and need to focus their dollars as much as possible on direct patient care – such as for new medical equipment, upgrades to aging health facilities and new patient care beds and spaces.
“To address this need in the most effective way possible, Interior Health has been exploring options for best delivering this service, including going to the private sector to see what companies have to offer, through a Request for Solutions. This provides the health authority with flexibility to implement the best solution for each community. In some cases this may mean services remain in-house. It is important to note that no decision has yet been made; however, Interior Health will work with staff and the union through any changes that are deemed appropriate.”