A critical part of the patient care team

News release
HEU has launched another 30-second spot in our province-wide TV ad campaign against privatization. Called One Mistake, the ad looks at the role of skilled, experienced health care support workers—an important part of the patient care team—whose jobs are threatened by the Campbell government’s privatization agenda.

Watch the second HEU TV ad "One Mistake" (requires software that can play .mpg files such as Windows Media Player or Real One Player)

Click here to download Real Player

Ronnie Nicolasora Balwinder Dhaliwal

Hospital Laundry

Food Services

Werlina Ragaza


And more

“Patients’ lives depend on keeping the hospital germ free,” says housekeeper and HEU member Werlina Ragaza, who starred in the ad along with laundry worker Ronnie Nicolasora, food service worker Balwinder Dhaliwal, and LPN patient porter Barb Cowley.

Operating room nurse Caroline Schoen tells British Columbians that she depends on the skills of experience of health support workers everyday. “Patients do too,” she says.

But, under the Campbell government’s privatization scheme, private corporations bidding for contracts in Campbell’s privatization frenzy want to fire these important support workers and 20,000 others, and replace them with minimum wage workers.

privatization: the wrong answer for patients

better ideas for health care:

  • the provincial government should suspend the privatization of health care services right now, before more mistakes are made
  • an arm's length, independent investigation into the impact of privatization on patient care is urgently required
  • health care reforms can't be made behind closed doors the province's health authority boards must hold their meetings in public and consult with the community and front-line health care workers before making changes

Hospital Laundry

"One mistake could mean an infection spreading throughout the hospital." Ronnie Nicolasora, Laundry Hospital laundry workers must take special measures to make sure that operating room linens, surgical gowns and other itmes are cleaned to a high standard.

These microfibre materials require special cleaning chemicals and equipment and must be inspected on a light table to remove any remaining lint or loose fibres.

OR lines are folded and wrapped in such a manner that they remain sterile until opened in an operating room or burn unit.

And sorting hospital laundry is a high risk job — laundry workers are particularly susceptible to salmonellosis, scabies and Hepatitis A.

Why? Because these workers encounter biohazardous materials such as colostomy bags, soiled dressings, internal tissue and body parts. It's also common to encounter "sharps" such as discarded needles and surgical blades.

It's the skills and experience of hospital laundry workers that ensure that hospitals are supplied with clean and sterile linens — and that occupational accidents and disease are kept to a minimum.

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Food services

"There's a lot of different diets. There's no room for mistakes." Balwinder Dhaliwal, Food services Providing the proper meals to patients is critical to their well-being. Diabetes, heart conditions and allergies are all conditions that may require doctors and dieticians to set out special diets.

Each patient has a dietary chart that indicates their food dislikes, allergies or dietary restrictions (such as gluten, salt, sugar or lactose-free) and special food requirements such as whether the food needs to be thickened, minced or pureed.

Patient contact is another important aspect of the job. Mealtime is an important opportunity for companionship and support, especially for those patients who are socially isolated or for the elderly in long-term care facilities.

Food service workers experience injury rates up to three times higher than the rest of the B.C. labour force. That's because of the physical demands of the job and increasing workloads.

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"Patients' lives depend on keeping the hospital germ-free."Werlina Ragaza, Housekeeping Hospital housekeeping is specialized health care work. It requires an eye for detail and a working knowledge of complex and exacting cleaning protocols tailored for different areas of a hospital.

Operating rooms, for example, must be cleaned to the highest standard and must be left sterile. Cleaners work around very sensitive and expensive equipment and often have only 15 minutes between surgeries.

Intense cleaning protocols are also required in areas such as burn and dialysis units where the risk of infection is very high. Radiation rooms require cleaners to wear special protective clothing and use specialized cleaning chemicals.

Emergency rooms present a different kind of challenge, where a high turnover of patients means a heavy and unpleasant workload for cleaners. Stretchers in the ER are often covered with blood, vomit and other bodily fluids.

Hospital cleaners are on the front line in the fight against dangerous strains of antibiotic resistant organisms such as Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aurous (MRSA) and Vanconycin Resistant Enterococcus (VRE). Special chemicals and a detailed cleaning plan are followed by housekeeping staff to prvent the spread of these organisms.

Needless to say, hospital housekeeping is not without risks. Needlesticks expose cleaners to blood borne pathogens like Hepatitis B and C. And scores of disinfecting and sterilizing agents, chemotherapeutic agents and waste anaesthetic gases can be very harmful if ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin accidentally.

And moving heavy linen bags, extremely heavy mechanical beds and other equipment contribute to an on-the-job injury rate for cleaners that's four times that of the average industrial worker.

Cleaners also play a significant role in providing patient contact. They often clean around a patient for more than 20 minutes a day and provide important social interaction for those who are isolated and critically or terminally ill.

It's the skills and experience of hospital cleaners that keep hospitals safe for patients and other workers.

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Health care is more than doctors and nurses

Other critical support work

  • Trades workers must be intimately familiar with the implications of the systems they work on for the safety of patients and other health care workers. They require specialized knowledge of medical equipment and on how to handle hazardous materials and substances.
  • Clerical workers, such as receptionists, interact with anxious families, inquiring reporters and handle other sensitive situations while safeguarding patient confidentiality and safety.
  • Stores and purchasing clerks must efficiently and cost effectively obtain and deliver a complex array of medical equipment and supplies. Often, these workers must work under emergency conditions to make sure that these supplies are delivered within minutes.

    Want to find out more

    Skilled and experienced health care support workers help make our hospitals run efficiently and to safeguard patient health and safety.

    In a groundbreaking study released last October, SFU economist Marjorie Griffin-Cohen outlines the important contribution to patient care and safety made by these skilled and experienced members of the health care team. Want to find out more?

    Click here to download report in PDF format