Queen’s visit convenient cover for major health privatization move

News release

Under cover of the Royal visit, the provincial government’s health authorities are set to announce the largest health privatization initiative to date that will hand control of critical hospital functions to private corporations and result in the firing of thousands of women workers, the Hospital Employees’ Union has learned.

Under the scheme, expected to be made public as early as this afternoon, health authorities operating in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley will package hospital services into lucrative contracts that will be tendered through a new Alliance for Shared Services.

One of the first moves to be attempted by the new body will be the firing of at least 1,500 skilled hospital cleaners including those responsible for disinfecting operating rooms and special care units. Private contractors have said they’ll pay as little as the minimum wage to workers hired to do this work.

“Operating rooms, special care nurseries and patient wards will be cleaned by workers earning McDonald’s level wages,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “The public should be concerned that low-waged, inexperienced cleaners won’t be up to tackling the superbugs that threaten patients every day. “Privatization of these critical hospital functions is the wrong answer for patient health and safety.”

Allnutt says it’s disappointing that health authority executives didn’t consult with front-line workers and their unions about how to improve service delivery throughout the region.

“Instead, they’ve created another layer of bureaucracy to oversee expanded health care privatization,” says Allnutt. “It’s a move in the wrong direction and one that we will fight.”

The new alliance will be headed up by Provincial Health Services Authority CEO Lynda Cranston, who was forced to scrub her first attempt to privatize cleaning at Children’s and Women’s Hospital after the arrangement was mired in controversy.

And a new executive level position will be created at the alliance to be filled by the ex-CEO of the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, Hugh McLeod. HEU is calling for a moratorium on health privatization and for an independent investigation into the impacts of privatization on patient care.

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