Workers laid off from Saskatchewan’s public laundry facilities last fall are concerned that laundry services now provided by the private company K-Bro Linen are inadequate.

Monday’s Leader-Post article, “Sharps and debris found in hospital laundry lead to staff safety concerns” confirmed these workers’ fears about the quality of laundry services being provided to hospitals and nursing homes under the privatized model.

These public employees, laid off when Edmonton-based company K-Bro Linen was granted a province-wide monopoly on health care laundry services, say they were disappointed but not surprised to hear that processed laundry has been returned with sharps and other debris in it.

According to Anita Labossiere, who worked at North Sask Laundry in Prince Albert until it closed last fall, “North Sask Laundry had systems in place to make sure any instruments, needles, equipment, and biological materials were removed before the washing process. Linen was also inspected after cleaning and before it was shipped back to health facilities.”

Mira Lewis, former union representative at North Sask Laundry, points to one significant change that she says explains the recent issues: sorting.

“North Sask Laundry employed sorters, who would separate heavily soiled linens from lightly soiled linens so that biological materials and other debris could be removed before washing,” Lewis said. “Under K-Bro’s system, it appears this sorting no longer happens.

“The kinds of problems being reported today would never have happened at North Sask,” she added.

CUPE Local 5999 President Sandra Seitz, herself a former laundry worker at Souris Valley in Sun Country Health Region, reports that since K-Bro took over the contract for laundry services, CUPE has been documenting reports of quality, delivery, and safety issues arising with processed laundry handled by K-Bro.

“We’ve seen the quality of the laundry handling deteriorate over the past year,” said Seitz. “We’ve also heard concerns from the public regarding quality issues with the laundry within Sun Country facilities.”

Meanwhile, in its last annual report, K-Bro reported a 15.6% increase in total shareholder return.