Interior Health’s new CEO says a final decision on privatizing hospital laundry services, including those in Nelson, won’t be made before March.
“I plan to take additional time in reviewing the future of our laundry services,” Chris Mazurkewich said in a prepared statement. “This process has taken, unfortunately, longer than anyone anticipated, and I want to take the time to understand all of the complexities around this significant issue.”
Mazurkewich said he appreciates the delay may be frustrating to those who have been waiting for the decision.
“I plan to work with the team leading the review to gather all of the information available to ensure we make a thorough recommendation to our board,” he said.
Those recommendations will be presented to the board in March.
The Hospital Employees’ Union, which represents affected workers, welcomed the news.
“We’re pleased that under new leadership, the IHA is taking a serious look at the plans for hospital laundries,” secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside said in a news release. “So far, we have not seen any valid justification for the health authority to forge ahead with contracting out this efficient, publicly delivered service.”
Since announcing last year that it would seek bids from the private sector to take over all or part of its laundry operations in11 communities including Nelson, the health authority has delayed its final decision several times.
“This in-house laundry operation has set the bar high in terms of productivity, efficiency and quality standards, according to the IHA itself,” says Whiteside. “We need the IHA to be a champion of protecting family-supporting jobs and a clearly well-run service in their region. That would be a win-win situation for everybody.”
This week the union also pointed to Simon Fraser University economist Marvin Shaffer’s review of two IHA documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request to analyze the health authority’s rationale for outsourcing its laundry services. He found no business case for privatization, the union said.
Nelson city council has objected to the privatization of hospital laundries, which would eliminate 17 full-time and 12 casual jobs at Kootenay Lake Hospital. If the move goes ahead, laundry services are expected to be provided by a contractor in the Lower Mainland or Alberta.