Laundry facilities at the Moncton Hospital and Tracadie-Sheila Hospital closed on November 1st throwing 22 workers at the Moncton Hospital and 11 at the Tracadie-Sheila Hospital out of work. Workers there had received a 30-day notice in September telling them of this fate. Additionally, laundry workers at two other hospitals, Dr. Georges Dumont in Moncton and the Bathurst General Hospital were informed that their jobs would be gone as of April 1st.
“The laundry services in the Moncton Hospital have been operating for 70 years and at the Tracadie-Sheila Hospital for 50 years. Where do you get another job when you have been working for the same employer all your life? What is going to happen to those families? Are they expected to go work in laundry in Fort McMurray?” said Norma Robinson, President of CUPE Local 1252, which represents health care workers.
Robinson indicated that axing of jobs in the laundry facilities is part of a larger strategy by the provincial government. “The government is getting Request For Proposals (RFPs) from food services, housekeeping and portering services. They want to contract out services. It’s the first step towards privatizing the whole thing.”
The RFPs were supposed to be competed in the fall, according to Robinson. The top companies are to be narrowed down this month, and a lead company established. “If (the government) comes back with the RFPs and find a higher cost, (they said) they won’t go that route. But they probably will go that way because that’s what they said they want. The public doesn’t know how much it costs. The Union has been lobbying to say that the government isn’t going to save money. (Private companies) are not going to provide services for less than what it costs now.”
Robinson elaborated on consequences that have already resulted from changes in how non-clinical services are being delivered, which seem to be paving the way for a transition to privatization. “A number of health care facilities have a chilled food system,” she explained. Food is prepared and chilled at a central location, then heated up as from a frozen state at the destination when ready to be served. Food is often frozen for several weeks in this system. As an example of the quality drop evidenced, she described how boiled eggs are preserved in a brine mixture in this system.
Additionally, frozen foods have come with job losses. The chilled food system at the hospital where Robinson works, Hotel-Dieu of St. Joseph Hospital in Perth-Andover reduced the staff from thirteen to four.
Environmental consequences are also a concern with the reduction in laundry facilities. Robinson described how some facilities are moving towards “disposable linen in order to deal with transportation of laundry (to central laundry facilities). “A lot of material is going into landfills. A lot of these materials would be considered contaminated and could raise health concerns as well,” argued Robinson.
“If this plan goes ahead, more workers will lose their jobs and we will see decent paying jobs replaced by minimum wage jobs … We need to protect the health services we have in rural communities as well as the urban centres. It’s time to stop the bleeding of health services,” concluded Robinson.