Hospital union objects to expected Horizon Health job cuts following upcoming privatization

Hospital union objects to expected job cuts following privatization


St. Stephen – It could be months before it is known how many jobs might be affected at Charlotte County Hospital, if Horizon Health Network privatizes hospital food and environmental services, and patient transportation, for New Brunswick hospitals.

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Norma Robinson, president of the New Brunswick Council of Hospitals Unions, CUPE Local 1252, said both Vitalite and Horizon Health are poised to sign a 10-year deal with a French, multi-national company, Sodexo, which will affect 280 full-time positions throughout the province.

In an interview, Robinson said the union has been informed 280 jobs have already been slotted to be removed, but it has not yet been indicated in which departments those cuts will be made.

Potentially, she said, the cuts could affect more than 280 people, because some of the positions are part time, and are shared by more than one individual.

‘”We won’t know until the contracts are signed, and workforce adjustments proceed,” said Robinson, explaining the union had been told it could be two or three months before the contract is signed, after which the location of the job cuts will be known, and the local union notified.

“It’s outrageous, because we are already running a barebones operation. To save money and turn a profit, this company will inevitably cut corners. This will mean more hospital-borne infections and “superbugs”.  This government is putting sick people, seniors, and our most vulnerable citizens’ health at risk,” said Robinson.

Less healthcare cleaning, and fewer infection control staff, frequently results in more cases of Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), C. difficile, and other infections caused by bacteria and viruses encountered in healthcare facilities, she said.

CUPE 1252 is also concerned that more frozen food systems will be implemented.

“Is this the food New Brunswickers deserve, when they are sick and dying in a hospital bed?” asked Robinson.

“The health of patients and workers should matter: by keeping these services in-house, we can avoid costly and dangerous problems,” concluded Robinson.
The jobs affected are those which pay between $16 and $18 per hour. She said multiplying an average salary of $17 per hour by the 1,957 hours each job is performed per year, results in a budget of $10 million being eroded out of the system – and the province – to a private company.

“Your tax dollars are now leaving the province.”

Robinson said the province, in 2012-2013, received a “C” rating from the New Brunswick Health Council.

“There have been cuts and reductions since 2011,” said Robinson. “By taking 280 (jobs) out of the system, it’s going to deteriorate worse.”

Robinson said CUPE has worked with Horizon in the past, to develop checkpoints and procedures to create policies, to ensure efficiencies were found. She said after all that work, the move to privatization “is mind boggling to me.”

She said in past meetings with the previous Health Minister, CUPE 1252 had been reassured that no privatization of these services would happen, because there were no solid guarantees to find savings without loss in quality and services.

“The public needs to be aware of where their tax dollars are going,” said Robinson. “The government doesn’t give a rat’s ass… The government doesn’t want to be responsible.”

She called privatization “a very slippery slope, and a dangerous situation” saying the province didn’t need a for profit organization managing the health care needs of the population.

“There is nowhere in health care for profits to be made. Health care should not be privatized in any shape or form, management or otherwise.

With jobs on the chopping block this year, Robison said she wondered what would be cut next year.

“We don’t need any further erosion of healthcare.”

Robinson said the public needs to be aware of the Sodexo company’s track record, and urged people to read online reports, and stated CUPE 1272 was “very concerned about Sodexo’s grim track record” pertaining to its performance in other provinces, and in the United States.

She noted the company was “kicked out” of universities, jails, schools, and other institutions in which they operated.

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Kathy Bockus
Journalist Kathy Bockus is based in St. Stephen and has worked for The Saint Croix Courier as a general news reporter and feature writer for the past 15 years. She began her lengthy newspaper career in 1974 with a daily in Saint John. Bockus says she always jokes being a reporter is a licence to be nosey, but firmly believes that everyone has a story to tell. She can be contacted at 321-0759.