New Interior Health boss seeks ‘wise counsel’

Chris Mazurkewich toured West Kootenay a week after putting the brakes on a decision whether to contract out hospital laundry services.

Chris Mazurkewich took over Oct. 26 as the new CEO of Interior Health. Last week he announced a decision on contracting out laundry services will be delayed at least until March.

Interior Health’s new chief executive officer says a decision on whether to contract out hospital laundry services won’t be entirely about dollars and cents, although there will inevitably be financial consequences.

Last week Chris Mazurkewich announced the health authority is delaying a final decision on privatizing laundry facilities, including those at Kootenay Lake Hospital in Nelson, until March.

During a tour of West Kootenay this week, he told the Star that he “has a bit of history with the laundry file,” noting that the move was considered a decade ago while he was chief operating officer.

“Most other health authorities outsourced laundry, plus food and housekeeping,” he said. “IH didn’t. The plants were very inefficient, but by collaborating with the union and management, productivity went up remarkably. It was competitive with what private laundry plants could produce.”

Despite older equipment, laundry was kept in-house, thanks largely to the leadership of laundry staff in Nelson. “I have to give them credit for that,” Mazurkewich said.

However, he added that at the time they knew when new equipment or expansion was needed, they would run into capital funding problems and would have to look at the private sector again. That’s what’s been happening over the last year, although a final decision has now been delayed several times. At stake in Nelson are 17 full-time and 12 casual jobs.

Mazurkewich, who started his new job Oct. 26, said he called for a review of the laundry issue “to make sure when we go in front of the board that we are prepared on all fronts. Different factors go into the equation. There’s the straight financial analysis but also softer qualitative factors to be considered. Community leaders recognize that, and the board is made up of community leaders. I don’t think whatever the decision the board makes is going to be easy.”

Mazurkewich said if the board opts to keep laundry in-house, they will have to spend money on modernization that consequently won’t be available for other services.

During his tour of the area, Mazurkewich met with physicians and elected officials in Nelson, Kaslo, and Riondel among other places. He was heartened to hear of collaborations to improve services, but doubted we will return to the days when every rural community had round-the-clock emergency service.

“I don’t think so, given the shortage of physicians and nurses. We are producing in BC considerably more physicians in the last few years than in the decades before, and more nurses, but there is increasing demand on the system. We have to look at doing things differently.”

Mazurkewich described his early days with Interior Health, following the creation of regional health authorities in 2002, as “rough.” He subsequently worked for Alberta Health Services before returning to take the top job with Interior Health, based in Kelowna.

I’ve seen the improvement in IH the last six or seven years and asked ‘Could I take that further and continue those improvements?’ I wanted to participate in that. But at the same time, it’s a daunting job and I’m humbled to be in it. I need to be listening to people and seeking wise counsel.”

Just Posted

Seven Nelson rec projects granted Columbia Basin Trust funding

Nelson’s baseball and tennis clubs were the big winners

UPDATE: Two-car accident closes Highway 3A at Thrums

Road expected to open for single-lane alternating traffic at 2 p.m.

1919: Hudson’s Bay Company gets an addition, council votes to exclude ‘undesirable enemy aliens’

Greg Scott brings us five Nelson Daily News stories from a century ago

Call a foul on cancer with the Pink Whistle Campaign

Local basketball referees are raising money for cancer research

Man found dead identified as Andreas Pittinger

Pittinger was known locally for hosting a radio show

VIDEO: Canada’s flag turns 54 today

The maple leaf design by George Stanley made its first appearance Feb. 15, 1965

Eight cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver outbreak

Coastal Health official say the cases stem from the French-language Ecole Jules Verne Secondary

Plecas won’t run in next election if B.C. legislature oversight reforms pass

B.C. Speaker and Abbotsford South MLA says he feels ‘great sympathy’ for Jody Wilson-Raybould

Workshop with ‘accent reduction’ training cancelled at UBC

The workshop was cancelled the same day as an email was sent out to international students

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell accused of sexual touching

Accuser went to police, interviewed by Britian’s Daily Telegraph

Judge rules Abbotsford home must be sold after son tries to evict mom

Mom to get back down payment and initial expenses

Trump officially declares national emergency to build border wall

President plans to siphon billions from federal military construction and counterdrug efforts

Snow turns to slush, rain as it warms up across B.C.’s south coast

Some areas are already covered by more than half a metre of snow following three separate storms

Father to be charged with first-degree murder in Amber Alert case

11-year-old Riya Rajkumar was found dead in her father’s home in Brampton, Ontario

Most Read