About 60 Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre linen unit workers were expected to lose their jobs on Friday. (Advocate file photo)

About 60 Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre linen unit workers were expected to lose their jobs on Friday. (Advocate file photo)

Union slams Red Deer hospital staff cuts

Nearly 60 jobs cut in Red Deer hospital’s linen unit

Dozens of front-line health-care workers were to lose their jobs in Red Deer on Friday, says the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.

The losses are a result of a province-wide plan to hand over operations to private industry, says the union, which represents about 95,000 workers.

“This loss of laundry services is part of the government plan to throw 11,000 front-line heroes out of work while we’re still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says AUPE vice-president Kevin Barry.

“Today, Red Deer Regional Hospital is losing 59 workers in the linen department. About a dozen of them have found work within AHS, but the rest will be gone today,” says Barry, who is chair of AUPE’s anti-privatization committee.

The Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury in Ponoka saw 24 full-time and five casual laundry workers cut earlier this month. In total, about 400 laundry workers in 54 communities, mainly in rural areas, will see their jobs disappear in communities including Athabasca, Barrhead, Canmore, Claresholm, Cold Lake, Devon, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, High River and Strathmore. Larger centres including Lethbridge and Medicine Hat will also be impacted.

Steve Buick, press secretary to Health Minister Jason Copping, said “we promised there would be no reductions in front-line patient care staff in the pandemic, and we’re honouring that promise.

The laundry contracting initiative, which has been underway since September, is based on recommendations from a review of AHS, which sought ways to make the health system more cost-effective while increasing care, and finding savings to reinvest in the system.

Buick said the health budget has not been cut, but “in fact it’s $3 billion higher than under the previous government.”

About 70 per cent of laundry services were already taken care of by an independent laundry service.

“The contracting model for laundry services is a proven success. It delivers the same quality services at lower cost, and every dollar we save is reinvested into the health system to provide more surgeries, tests, and other services.

“AHS estimates that maintaining the existing in-house services would require more than $38 million in upgrades, or more than $100 million in public capital to build new modern linen systems,” he said.

AUPE says the move to private contractors will cost more money, not less.

“This handing over of jobs and public assets will end up costing more and providing lower-quality service – because that’s always the result of privatizations,” he says. “It’s one more example of how this government has messed up during the pandemic.”

“It is also a huge blow to communities, many of them rural, who are already suffering thanks to years of economic turmoil. Good jobs are hard to find and yet this government is killing them rather than creating them. Just one more broken promise, one more failure.”

Other areas bracing for cuts include nutrition and food services; environmental services; lab services, supply chain and procurement; and long-term care.

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