LETTER: Putting a human face on laundry privatization

Reader Christine Gemzik describes some public mis-perceptions about hospital laundry service.

Re: “Hospital workers present 12,000 signature petition to minister”

I have been reading and listening to comments regarding the privatization of laundry services by Interior Health. I would like to add a human face to the equation.

My husband is one of those workers who will be affected by the IHA’s decision to privatize. He is a hard worker, dedicated to his job. He has been at his job for 23 years and is not at the age that he can retire yet. His body hurts at the end of the day; he is exhausted. It is not an easy job. Anyone who thinks it is is mistaken.

The amount of soiled linen that has to be dealt with is not something most of us would want to handle daily, if at all. The likelihood of getting poked by a needle while sorting the laundry is always a concern. The handling of hazardous chemicals is also a concern.

I think there is a misperception in the general public. While the Nelson facility does laundry for the immediate area (Castlegar, Nelson and Trail), they actually handle laundry for a total of 26 facilities (servicing the East and West Kootenays and Revelstoke) and they push through an average of 18,000 to 22,000 pounds of laundry a day (five days a week). They work very hard to fill their orders each and every day and make sure every facility has what is needed.

The health minister doesn’t seem to realize that laundry is health care. It is an important cog in the wheel of the health care system. Just because these workers don’t have a degree doesn’t make their job any less important. The workers take pride in the product they put out to the public.

These are not high-paying jobs. They are family supporting jobs and remember back in 2001, these workers and others had to take a 15 per cent wage cut when Gordon Campbell’s government came into power. That 15 per cent has not been caught up in the 14 years since. My husband and his co-workers work hard for their wage. Why take away more jobs from these communities and give them to private enterprise?

The next time you have a loved one in the hospital, look around. You and your loved ones should not have to worry if the linens are cleaned properly. That should be the least of your worries.

I would ask the health minister to reconsider the idea of privatization and keep these jobs in our communities. I would also ask for the public’s support to help save these jobs. Join a rally this Saturday at city hall at 12 noon.

Nelson is our home and we want to stay in the community where our family and friends are.

Christine Gemzik