Hospital workers say laundry shortages plague Interior hospitals since privatization
Image Credit: Submitted/Interior Health
January 11, 2018 - 6:30 PM
Some employees at two Interior hospitals say staff are consistently short of gowns and linens since laundry services were contracted to a private company last year.
The Interior Health Authority made the controversial announcement in 2016 and by June 2017, all five major Interior hospitals were outsourcing laundry services to Ecotex Healthcare Linen Service.
The Hospital Employees’ Union opposed the outsourcing and collected more than 12,000 signatures from local residents. A half a year later an HEU spokesperson says Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops has been sending back approximately one-third of the "cleaned" linens because they are still stained or dirty.
“Sometimes there could be a laundry bag where there’s 10 to 20 pieces that are stained. Sheets, top sheets, face cloths, towels and gowns,” nursing unit clerk at Royal Inland Hospital Heather Tomlin says. Tomlin is also an HEU local executive member who says says their complaints to Interior Health and Ecotex have been ignored.
Other sources at Kelowna General Hospital say the problem is made worse by an influenza outbreak that's blowing through isolation gowns and linens.
Interior Health denies receiving any complaints from staff or union representatives and say recent shortages are due to a particularly nasty flu season.
“The hospital is using a higher than average amount of laundry at the site (Kelowna General Hospital) and had requested an increased supply from our laundry provider,” Interior Health spokesperson Andrew Pattison says. “They have increased their daily delivery to cover the higher usage.”
He says there have been a small number of times when "an item" has been included with clean linens shipped to Interior Health Authority sites but "these returned items have not posed a concern with regards to cleanliness or sterility of the linens."
Pattison says less than 0.0002 per cent of clean linen shipped to IH facilities have been returned.
A call to Ecotex Healthcare Linen Service was not returned.
Tomlin maintains the number is much higher and says it will be hospital staff and patients who will suffer the consequences.
“If a third of your laundry cart that gets delivered that morning is dirty or stained, then you have to take the time to ask them to replenish that. That takes a while so you’re low on laundry for that floor.”
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