Surrey Memorial probe must be expanded

News release

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Investigation should include public disclosure of privatized cleaning standards

A government-ordered investigation into emergency and maternity care at Surrey Memorial Hospital must be expanded to other Fraser Health Authority facilities and include an examination of privatization’s impact on infection control, says the Hospital Employees’ Union.

High-profile cases reported in the media in the last few days are only the most recent incidents of compromised health and safety to be reported since the FHA handed over critical cleaning functions to the foreign multinational Sodexho during the past year.

“Without a full disclosure of the standards to which the private cleaning contractor is being held, this investigation will fail to restore public confidence,” says HEU acting secretary-business manager Zorica Bosancic. “Problems are not limited to Surrey Memorial and neither should this investigation.”

Other incidents this year include:
  • In March the Abbotsford Times reported on blood smears in delivery rooms and trash left behind beds in the emergency ward at MSA Hospital. FHA promised penalties if substandard conditions continued;

  • In April the special care nursery at Royal Columbian Hospital was closed due to a superbug outbreak;

  • In August patient complaints about cleanliness at the Royal Columbian emergency room led the FHA to promise more staffing from the private contractor. But more complaints were raised in September by a patient placed in a bed with wet and soiled linens; and

  • In September a Workers’ Compensation Board investigation determined that Sodexho’s health and safety procedures at MSA Hospital were applicable to the hospitality sector not to health care. The WCB probe followed an incident where a contract worker was exposed to biohazardous waste.

“The contract workers have been telling us that their workloads are extreme and they’ve received minimal training. These issues must be part of the investigation as well,” says Boscanic.

HEU says its attempts through freedom of information requests to obtain the cleaning standards agreed to by the FHA in its five-year contract with Sodexho have resulted in blank pages of severed material.

“There’s a total lack of transparency and accountability when it comes to infection control standards post-privatization,” says Bosancic. “If the government is serious about restoring public confidence, this secrecy must end now.”

-30- Contact: Margi Blamey, communications officer, 604-456-7094 or 604-785-5324 (cell)