New Brunswick

CUPE rep angry with hospital service management privatization

A union representative for non-medical services in the province’s hospitals says he’s frustrated with the government’s decision to privatize the management of some hospital services.

Province says the move will save millions, but will likely mean job losses

The government has delivered a 30-day notice of "intention to layoff" staff, saying it intends to enter into a long-term partnership with the private sector. (CBC)

A union representative for non-medical services in the province's hospitals says he's frustrated with the government's decision to privatize the management of some hospital services.

Health Minister Victor Boudreau announced Thursday that the province is negotiating with a private, for-profit company to take over management of hospital operations such as food services and cleaning. These areas are currently managed in-house.

Boudreau says the move could save the province millions of dollars, but it would likely mean job losses.

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) representative Ralph McBride says privatization will have a negative impact on hospital patients.

"We're finding that we're at skeleton crews right now," he said.

"For a for-profit company to come in and say they can do it better, the only way they can do that [is] they have to either cut services or change practices, which then, I think, affects patient care."

McBride says a lot of provinces who have privatized their non-medical services have regretted the decision.

"We know that out in B.C. they did this a few years ago and we know that infectious diseases skyrocketed when they made the changeover to these for-profit companies," he said.

There are currently 1,800 hospital employees in non-medical roles. The union says there are between 50 and 70 managers who oversee these employees. The government says it can't say how many of these managers would be affected by the change.

The government has delivered a 30-day notice of "intention to layoff" staff, saying it intends to enter into a long-term partnership with the private sector. The province has declined to name the company it is negotiating with.

'We are talking about significant savings'

The three main companies in Canadian hospital service management are Aramark, Compass and Sodexo.

Boudreau says employees doing the work will remain unionized, public-sector workers, but there may be fewer of them.

"I'm guessing there will be an impact, but we don't know how significant it will be yet," he said.

"But we are talking about significant savings throughout the system as well."

The government says it expects to reach an agreement with a management company in three to six months.

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