New laundry distribution centre coming to Castlegar

A new distribution centre will open in Castlegar now that Interior Health has decided to outsource its laundry.

A new distribution centre will open in Castlegar now that Interior Health has decided to outsource its laundry.

The health authority’s board of directors announced Tuesday that it had reached a 20-year agreement with Ecotex Healthcare Linen Service Inc. to “provide the majority of linen and laundry services through a centralized facility…, supported by regional distribution centres.”

Mayor Lawrence Chernoff says the good news is that Castlegar will gain employment opportunities when one of the distribution centres opens here.

“Anytime you get jobs to your community it is always good,” he said. “We’re not happy about [the Nelson job losses] but it is a fact that took place. I look at the health dollars moving in our direction, they say they will be moving it to capital. I think it is moving money in a great direction.”

Interior Health estimates that outsourcing its laundry services will save $35 million over 20 years.

“A clear case exists to proceed with outsourcing laundry services at our major facilities,” said Erwin Malzer, board chair, in a press release. “With an anticipated savings of about $35 million over the life of the contract we will be able to increase our investment in facilities and equipment to support direct patient care, including necessary upgrades and expansions of our emergency departments and operating rooms.”

Kootenay Lake Hospital in Nelson is one of five facilities that will be affected by the change, and around 17 jobs will be lost. In total, 93 full-time equivalent position will be “impacted by the decision.” Interior Health says it will work closely with the affected employees and the Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU) to ensure a smooth transition of the service to Ecotex by Summer 2017.

“Interior Health laundry employees have delivered high quality service to our patients for many years, and I understand they may feel disappointed with this decision,” said Malzer. “While there will be job displacement within our sites, we believe the commitment by Ecotex to build a facility in the Southern Interior and hire residents from our region will offset some of the impact felt. We will also work with the HEU to support laundry employees as they consider options for the future, whether that is through accessing vacancies or retraining.”