SARS spread aided by contracting out hospital cleaning and laundry, says head of Taiwan’s disease control agency

News release

The official responsible for Taiwan’s efforts to control the spread of SARS has issued a stark warning about the dangers of contracting out hospital staff that B.C.’s health authorities should heed, says the Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE).

According to the Taipei Times, the head of Taiwan’s Centre for Disease Control says contracting out of hospital laundry, cleaning and nursing aide services contributed to the devastating outbreak of SARS in that country which last week stood at 680 probable cases with more than 80 deaths attributed to the disease.

CDC director Su Ih-jen told the Times: “These nursing aides, cleaners and laundry workers were not the hospitals’ formal employees. The hospitals, therefore, could not efficiently manage these workers.”

Su also told the Times that he’s recommending hospitals take direct control of all contracted out work to bolster the country’s infection control efforts.

HEU spokesperson Zorica Bosancic says that British Columbians expect those charged with running our health care system to take every precaution to prevent another SARS outbreak in this province.

“I urge our health authorities to consider the warning of their Taiwanese counterparts before rolling the dice on public safety,” added Bosancic.

Bosancic says B.C.’s success in controlling SARS is due in part to the efficient operation of the health care team — including the critical services provided by hospital cleaners, laundry workers and security officers.

“Contracting out means breaking up the health care team and compromising our infection control efforts,” says Bosancic.

“I urge B.C.’s health authorities to shelve their contracting out plans and investigate the risks of privatization before costly mistakes are made.”

The full article from the June 10 issue of the Tapei Times can be viewed at

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