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REGINA – Attempts by 3sHealth to prevent public disclosure and transparency on the privatization of hospital laundry services have been dealt with a major blow by the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner in a new report that calls for public disclosure of a fully unredacted contract with K-Bro Linen.

CUPE has been trying to get a public copy of the contract with K-Bro Linen since it was signed in December 2013,” said Cheryl Stadnichuk, CUPE Researcher. “Both 3sHealth and K-Bro went to great lengths to prevent disclosure of this contract.”

After unsuccessful attempts to get a copy of the 10-year K-Bro contract from the Ministry of Health, who claimed it did not have a copy, CUPE filed access to information requests to five health regions. All health regions, except for Sunrise Health Region, replied that they did not have the record. Sunrise offered a costing model template and requested a copy of the contract from 3sHealth, who denied the request. A heavily censored copy of the contract was provided to CUPE by 3sHealth only after a formal review had commenced. The review culminated in today’s report, which recommends full disclosure of both documents.

“When dealing with our government, or one of its agencies, an unfortunate pattern seems to have developed,” said Tom Graham, President of CUPE Saskatchewan. “Requests for information are simply denied or the information that is released is heavily censored. It is time for us to seriously consider making changes to freedom of information legislation to ensure openness and transparency in government.”

CUPE is calling for 3sHealth to be included under freedom of information legislation – a move in line with the report’s recommendation that 3sHealth be made a “health care organization” under the Regional Health Services Act.

“3sHealth plays a major role in the provision and restructuring of health care services,” added Graham. “3sHealth is funded by public dollars but is not covered by LAFOIP and is not subject to the same public scrutiny as other publicly-funded health organizations. This must change.”

“This report is a victory for democratic accountability and transparency,” said Stadnichuk. “Saskatchewan people deserve the opportunity to view all contracts for privatizing services to monitor the full costs.”

“Disclosure is especially important in this case, since we’re dealing with a ten-year contract in an industry notorious for cost overruns,” added Stadnichuk.  

Public statements in B.C. show that payments to two laundry corporations that hold the monopoly on service to health authorities in the Lower Mainland increased by a staggering 170 per cent over a seven-year period. Critics of the agreement with K-Bro in Saskatchewan have raised concerns about possible cost overruns because of unrealistic cost valuations.

Read the full report (082-2015) here.