Stop laundry closures, community tells Bruce

News release

Health workers and the citizens of the communities of Duncan and surrounding areas are outraged at the Vancouver Island Health Authority decision to shut down several laundries located in health care facilities in Central Vancouver Island, and today they took their anger right to the local representative of Campbell’s Liberal government, MLA Graham Bruce.

The Cowichan Citizens’ Coalition organized the two-hour protest that saw more than 30 protesters gather outside the MLA’s Duncan office. Seniors, ICBC employees and health care workers were there to let Bruce know they’re fighting mad about the impending closures and they want the decision reversed.

VIHA says it’s eliminating Cowichan District Hospital’s much-prized laundry facility and sending the hospital’s dirty linen to Victoria General Hospital. Also included in VIHA’s plans is the transfer of laundry services from Parksville’s Trillium Lodge, Qualicum’s Eagle Park Lodge and West Coast General Hospital up-island to the Cumberland Regional Laundry.

The health authority claims it will save money with these harsh measures that will throw 22 laundry workers — all members of the Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE) — out of work.

“Losing those jobs is a blow to the community as well as the workers,” says HEU spokesperson Zorica Bosancic. “This is a real kick in the teeth to the citizens of Duncan who have fought to keep that laundry in their town.”

The Cowichan Citizens’ Coalition in Duncan has been mounting a spirited campaign to keep CDH’s laundry in the community, especially after having recently spent more than $1.2 million on upgrading and modernization.

In 1999 HEU staff at the hospital’s laundry demonstrated to the public health board that following through with a plan to close the laundry would be foolhardy, a waste of taxpayers’ money and that the resulting job loss would hurt the community. As a result, the government and the community made a major investment in retrofitting the aged facility.

“Everyone thought they had won a victory that would benefit the community for years to come,” says Bosancic, “but on April 23, when the health authorities gathered in Vancouver to reveal their restructuring plans, the CDH laundry was on VIHA’s chopping block.”

The citizen’s coalition has prepared a report that refutes the health authority’s claims that closing CDH’s laundry would save money. HEU also got busy and did some math to show that closing the facility where its members wash, dry and iron linens for CDH as well as Chemainus Health Care Centre, Ladysmith Hospital, Cairnsmore Place, Cowichan Lodge and several local medical clinics just doesn’t make sense.

Contact Dale Fuller, communications officer at 604-456-7036 (direct) or 604-818-5105 (cell)