The Regional District of Central Kootenay board will write to Health Minister Terry Lake expressing their concern regarding Interior Health’s intention to privatize the regional laundry service at Kootenay Lake Hospital. The board believes the loss of jobs would have a severe negative economic impact on Nelson and the surrounding area.
The letter will highlight that 17 full-time and 12 casual jobs in Nelson could be lost, adding the laundry machinery at the hospital has 10 to 12 years of operating life left and is operating efficiently.
Slocan Valley director Walter Popoff brought the recommendation to the table, which was supported by the board.
Salmo Mayor Stephen White said outsourcing such a service can increase the incidence of mistakes, with dire consequences like infection due to contamination in an operating room.
Rural Salmo director Hans Cunningham said this isn’t about simple laundry.
“This laundry is sterilized, not just washed. It’s also a loss of jobs,” he said.
Nelson Mayor Deb Kozak echoed the significance of potential job losses to the region.
“It’s important to point out to IHA that employment is a major factor,” she said.
According to Silverton director Leah Main, this is one part of a bigger issue that is making health care less accessible.
“By breaking everything into parts, we’ve got more and more fragmentation,” she said. “We need to see delivery of health services as a whole.”
The regional service provides laundry to the East Kootenay as well.
Rural Creston director Larry Binks pointed to the carbon footprint of trucking laundry to Vancouver and return, suggesting a central location be chosen if the location should change from Kootenay Lake hospital when the equipment reaches the end of its life a decade from now.
The board’s motion comes on the heels of a 12,423-signature petition delivered to Lake by local MLA Michelle Mungal. Cunningham said Lake’s response to the petition resembled a form letter.