Health authority plans to ship dozens of Fraser Valley jobs and 4 million pounds of laundry to Alberta

News release

A plan to ship more than 4 million pounds of hospital laundry and dozens of Fraser Valley jobs to Alberta is economically damaging, risky and raises serious doubts about whether health authorities are practicing due diligence in the awarding of lucrative health care contracts, says the Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE).

K-Bro Linen Systems — an Alberta-based company controlled by a private U.S. investment firm — has been given an unprecedented 10-year contract to clean laundry for four Fraser Valley Hospitals. That means the communities of Chilliwack and Mission will lose 43 skilled laundry jobs and $1.5 million in direct economic activity.

“It’s completely unacceptable that this government and their health authority appointees would ship decent jobs to Alberta and health care dollars south of the border,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “Especially since the projected — and unproven — operating costs savings are modest at best. “But there’s serious implications in this decision for patient health and safety as well.”

Over the next year — while the FHA waits for K-Bro to build a laundry facility somewhere in the Lower Mainland — millions of pounds of hospital laundry including more that 400,000 pounds of critical operating room linens will be trucked to and from Calgary through some of the most difficult mountain passes on the continent.

“Hospitals are constantly resupplying their inventory of sterile OR linens,” says Allnutt. “Even minor weather-related delays in delivering these supplies could have major repercussions for patient safety.”

And the union is calling for a full disclosure of the terms of the contract with K-Bro and is raising doubts about whether due diligence was followed in the tendering process.

“Yesterday’s announcement raises many questions about the FHA’s privatization plans,” says Allnutt.

Those questions include:

  • Why has FHA put taxpayers on the hook for a 10-year contract when the tender document specified a five-year contract and how much will it cost taxpayers to bail out if K-Bro fails to perform?
  • What commitments have other health authorities given to K-Bro outside the tendering process to provide the company with enough volume to justify their planned $4 million dollar investment in a new laundry facility?
  • Did the FHA investigate the controversy surrounding cost overruns during the first year of K-Bro’s laundry contract with the Calgary Regional Health Authority in 1998?
  • Why did B.C.’s public health authorities fail to submit a proposal to do the work by the efficient, cost-effective and publicly-owned Tilbury Regional Hospital Laundry in Delta?

"Campbell’s health privatization train is picking up steam,” says Allnutt. “It’s headed right out of the province loaded with millions of health care dollars.”

-30- Contact: Mike Old, communications officer, 604-828-6771 (cell)