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Victoria, FHA impose steep price for FOI requests for key health privatization records

The Fraser Health Authority and the Ministry of Finance want more than $4,000 for key documents about two controversial health privatization initiatives that should be easily accessible to British Columbians and completely open to public scrutiny free of charge, says the Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE).

HEU recently filed Freedom of Information requests to obtain pertinent information about and a copy of the laundry services contract between the FHA and K-Bro Linen Systems Inc., and to acquire relevant information about a government-backed trip to research public/private partnership hospitals in the United Kingdom. The union has been advised that estimated fees for the information are $820 and $3,300 respectively.

“In an open and transparent process, all information about important initiatives such as these should be readily available,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “Hefty fees are one way for government and health authorities to limit public scrutiny of their plans and expenditures.”

Allnutt says that the contracting out of laundry services to K-Bro, an American-controlled company that trucks dirty hospital laundry to Alberta for cleaning, and the possibility of Canada’s first privately financed, owned and operated hospital going up in Abbotsford, are issues of enormous concern to Fraser Valley residents and all British Columbians.

“The stiff financial costs of accessing information about these deals are serious roadblocks for most people and not at all in the public interest,” says Allnutt.

“It’s all part of the high cost of privatization and contracting out,” he adds. Allnutt says his union will press the FHA and finance ministry officials to drop the exorbitant charges.