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November 21, 2002 - Move will tarnish region’s Olympic image - HEU

The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority has taken the first step towards

total privatization of housekeeping and operating room cleaning in

hospitals and long-term care facilities from Whistler to Richmond.

It’s a move that the Hospital Employees’ Union says will result in the

layoff of more than 1000 women and men and will put patient health and

safety at risk. Tomorrow, the health authority is expected to issue a

“request for proposals” inviting private corporations to bid on the

work. The RFP closes in January at which time pink slips will be issued.

HEU’s secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt says Gordon Campbell’s

health care privatization campaign puts Vancouver’s world-class image at


“The premier may have Olympic dreams for the region, but his policies

mean that workers from Whistler to Sechelt to Vancouver will lose decent

family and community supporting jobs,” adds Allnutt. “It’s an absolutely

appalling way to treat these skilled and experienced front-line health

care workers and it represents another attack by the Campbell Liberals

on the economic base of communities large and small.”

Allnutt says private contractors will pay wages in the eight to 10

dollar an hour range - a situation that will lead to high turnover and

less experienced workers cleaning sensitive patient care areas including

hospital operating rooms.

Evidence from around the globe points to rising infection rates in

health care facilities where cleaning has been privatized. A recent U.S.

study says lower cleaning standards contributed to the deaths of more

than 103,000 Americans in 2001. The National Health Service in the U.K

recently had to invest more than CDN$77 million in a crash program to

upgrade cleaning standards in selected hospitals - most of which had

retained private cleaning contractors.

B.C.’s health authorities were given a free hand to contract out the

work of thousands of front-line health care workers when the Campbell

Liberals passed legislation that shredded health care collective

agreements last January.

For more info contact Mike Old, communications officer, 604-828-6771