Vancouver Coastal Health Authority on the verge of massive contracting-out move

Area-wide privatization of a health support service possible this spring under Bill 29

If the newly-formed Vancouver Coastal Health Authority can swing it, HEU members from North Vancouver to Bella Bella and Bella Coola will see a rapid change in the way health care support services are delivered in that expanded jurisdiction through a massive privatization deal. Management-types told union representatives earlier this week that a decision would be made within 90 days about contracting-out our members’ work for the entire region in one of the support services areas.

“As Bill 29 becomes a reality, we can expect attempts from health authorities to privatize health care support services under the guise of cost efficiencies and improved patient care. But that’s simply not true, and we’ll fight those attempts every step of the way,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt.

“Our members know, and research backs them up, that their work is an integral part of health care and that privatizing it leads to reduced quality of care and higher costs.”

While VCHA has not identified which support service will be targeted, food services may take the first hit. Private, for-profit giant, Aramark, has already infiltrated Lions Gate Hospital and may be courting expansion opportunities.

However, the trend toward contracting-in has begun in health care. Last October, the Providence Health Group in Vancouver, which includes St. Paul’s, St. Vincent’s and Mount St. Joseph’s hospitals among its health facilities, cited cost savings as the reason for bringing the management of its food services back in-house and putting an early end to its contract with U.S.-based, multi-national Marriott.