Investigate dangerous laundry incident, BCNU demands of Hansen

Front line RNs say Fraser Health Authority and private laundry contractor K-Bro are jeopardizing patient safety

In a letter sent today, the B.C. Nurses’ Union is demanding that Health Services Minister Colin Hansen immediately investigate how the Fraser Health Authority permitted a private laundry contractor to jeopardize the health and safety of hospital patients and residents of long-term care facilities in Chilliwack.

Yesterday, HEU revealed that Alberta-based K-Bro Linen Systems, which has a 10-year contract to service laundry at Chilliwack General Hospital, had been using standard household washing machines at two nearby long-term care facilities to clean bloodied and soiled birthing sheets from the hospital’s busy maternity unit.

"I would think that in this day and age of deadly super bugs and blood-borne infectious diseases the health authority would ensure that every precaution be taken to prevent cross infection," says BCNU Fraser Valley Chair Deanna Kenney in a union press release.

"Particularly in this case, which involves the frail elderly, newborns and mothers. It just doesn’t make sense to take these kinds of risks and gamble with the lives of our patients," she says.

Meanwhile, BCNU president Debra McPherson says RNs are “appalled and alarmed to learn that patient and staff safety has been jeopardized in this manner." In demanding that Hansen immediately investigate the incident, McPherson says “patients and staff have a right to know why the health authority would permit a private contractor to endanger the health of Fraser Valley residents.

"Standard laundry practice at BC hospitals (including at Chilliwack General before laundry services were privatized) for cleaning soiled and bloodied birthing sheets includes using powerful industrial-strength washing machines that are capable of reaching the high temperatures needed to safely clean birthing sheets, which are routinely covered in blood, blood clots and amniotic fluids.

And, as an interim step until the investigation is completed and made public, BCNU also calls on the government to re-open Chilliwack General’s laundry service and stop using the services of K-Bro and other private laundry contractors.

Click here for a copy of the BCNU letter to Hansen.