Privatization in Health Care: Pay More, Get Less

DSC_0009FREDERICTON: The New Brunswick Council of Hospital Unions – CUPE Local 1252 which represents hospital workers, released a report today that portrays a poor picture of the situation that prevailed in hospitals and other institutions where food and cleaning services have been privatized. “We are very concerned that the Liberal government is negotiating with a private firm to take over the management of food and cleaning services in the Province’s hospitals” explained Norma Robinson, president of CUPE Local 1252.

“This report has been prepared for Health Minister Victor Boudreau and since the Minister doesn’t seem interested in meeting with us, we decided to release it to inform the public. We believe it is important for New Brunswickers to understand the impact of such a move, especially when it comes to the cleanliness of a building which the public relies on everyday.”

“Our research into the three companies being considered to take over those services, Sodexo, Aramark and Compass, shows a very troubling picture of the quality of the services provided. All over the world, all three competitors have shown very poor track records when it comes to cleaning and food preparation. The latest being in Ontario’s Niagara Health Region where the Hospital Board ended that relationship with Aramark after a major outbreak of C. difficile that caused the death of 37 patients.”

“We are also concerned about the delivery of food within the system. Everyone knows that one of the quickest way to recovery is to have a healthy meal plan and that may not be the case if these for-profit companies are allowed to take over that system.”

“As this report shows, the evidence against privatization of the management of hospital environmental cleaning and food services is very strong. We should learn from the experience of other jurisdictions,” said Robinson. Therefore, we would like to make the following recommendations.

1. Keep the management of hospital environmental services in-house.

2. Do not privatize to any of the “Big Three”: Sodexo, Aramark or Compass Group.

3. If they are not already in place, institute adequate cleaning and disinfecting protocols of high-touch areas. Make sure staff are adequately trained.

4. Maintain fair wages and benefits for cleaning and food services staff to ensure against high turnover and gaps in training.

5. Abandon “re-thermalized” food where frozen commercial meals are reheated in the hospital before serving. We have the kitchen facilities to return to in-house food preparation. Food cooked on-site is fresher and more appetizing, safer and more nourishing than chill-reheat practices. On-site food preparation also supports local food producers which is as good for the economy as it is for patients’ health and healing.

6. Lay-offs and staff reductions are a poor way to balance the budget. The cost associated with treating hospital-acquired infections, managing public relations fiascos and defending lawsuits would defeat any possible savings while destroying the public trust.

7. Increase pressure on the federal government to restore federal funding for health care in order to ensure universally accessible and transferable health care services regardless of where you live in Canada.