Alberta Health Services seeking company to deal with its dirty laundry
Edmonton's University of Alberta hospital cafeteria operated at a loss of approximately $1.5 million between 2017 and 2019, data shows.
CALGARY -- While Alberta Health Services (AHS) is looking for a company to take over the rest of its laundry services, new data shows many restaurants and cafeterias in Alberta hospitals have been operating millions in the red for years.
AHS announced a request for proposal (RFP) from third-party providers to take over the process of cleaning the massive quantity of linens, towels and other products Alberta's hospitals use each day.
The province announced it was taking the step toward privatizing many of the services currently offered at Alberta hospitals earlier this month.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro says the RFP will allow the health-care system to discover savings to benefit Albertans.
"By reinvesting savings from initiatives such as contracting out laundry services into the health system, we can improve patient care and ensure Albertans are provided with the best possible health care," he said in a release Friday.
AHS says more than two-thirds of its laundry services are already provided through a third party, including all the laundry services in the city of Calgary and Edmonton.
It says the transition will save more than $38 million that could be used in other areas to support patient care.
An estimated 428 full-time, part-time and casual employees will be impacted by the change.
"AHS is committed to working with them and their unions throughout this process. AHS anticipates there will be some opportunities for employment with the new vendor(s)," officials say.
HOSPITAL-RUN RESTAURANTS LOST MILLIONS
One of the other areas identified by the health minister's office as a potential for cost savings was the hospital-run cafeteria services and restaurants.
Data, released earlier this week by SecondStreet.org, shows that many of Alberta's commercial food locations that operate inside of hospitals posted losses.
The highest losses in 2017/18 and 2018/19, the two years that the organization looked at for its study, were both at the University of Alberta's main hospital cafeteria.
The main findings of SecondStreet's study indicate that if hospitals can't break-even on cafeterias and food kiosks, private companies should take them over.
"Several hospitals in Canada have done just that and they’ve been able to turn losses into gains and focus more on helping patients," said SecondStreet.org president Colin Craig. "Cooks don’t do surgery, and health care administrators aren’t restaurant managers – and it shows."
'FINDINGS FIT WITH THE EVIDENCE'
The province says the data compiled by SecondStreet.org fall in line with what it found during its own research, including the MacKinnon report and the recent AHS review.
"The SecondStreet.org findings fit with the evidence," said Steve Buick, press secretary for Health Minister Tyler Shandro. "We need to find efficiencies in the health system to pay for more services for patients, while ensuring Albertans are protected from the COVID-19 pandemic.
"AHS will contract non-frontline services to independent contractors that can operate more effectively than government. That includes laundry, lab tests, housekeeping, and food services. Contracting of food services will move forward in 2021."
Buick adds some services at Alberta hospitals are already successfully contracted out to third party companies.
"Nearly 70 per cent of laundry services province-wide, and 73 per cent of community lab tests in Edmonton and northern Alberta."
He also emphasized that the province's plans will not necessarily mean any net loss of employment.
"In fact, many staff will simply do the same job for a different employer. Any reductions will be managed through attrition as much as possible."
AHS says the RFP process for a potential vendor for laundry services could take approximately four months. Implementation would depend on the company chosen to take over the services.
CTV News has reached out for any details on RFPs for restaurants, housekeeping and lab services, the other areas identified for reorganization by Minister Shandro's office.