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Consultation on permanent closure of West Coast DHB Laundry


WEST COAST DISTRICT HEALTH BOARD

PRESS RELEASE

23 November 2012

Consultation on permanent closure of West Coast DHB Laundry

The need for substantial expenditure to bring Grey Base Hospital buildings to a safe seismic standard, alongside potential South Island-wide changes in the way laundry services are provided to district health boards, have together compelled the West Coast District Health Board to investigate closing its laundry on a permanent basis.

The West Coast DHB released to staff today [Friday 23 November] a consultation document that proposes continuing with the current temporary arrangement with Canterbury Linen Services [CLS] to supply hospital linen. That arrangement has been in place since May, when the Grey Base Hospital was obliged to close its own laundry service after the building in which the laundry is located was declared to be a high earthquake risk and unsafe to occupy.

Because the changes came about unexpectedly and were hoped to be temporary, WCDHB laundry staff have continued to be paid. The consultation document now proposes that up to 18 laundry staff and one of two permanent driving positions be disestablished, while the arrangement with CLS continues for the immediate future.

West Coast DHB Chief Executive David Meates says that staff input into the consultation document is encouraged and any suggestions on how the proposal might be modified or its impact reduced will be seriously considered.

“But the reality is that we cannot continue to pay twice for laundry services by retaining staff when the work is being done elsewhere.

“Further, the burgeoning costs of bringing Grey Base Hospital buildings up to seismic standard, plus a proposal by Health Benefits Ltd to consolidate laundry services for South Island DHBs, together mean it will be neither affordable, nor responsible, to invest in new laundry services locally.

“We deeply regret the anxiety this proposal will cause laundry staff and drivers and their families, but we have little choice. The estimated cost of bringing the laundry building up to earthquake standards, plus upgrading the laundry equipment which is near the end of its useful life, would be upwards of a million dollars, money sorely needed for higher priority seismic expenditure in other hospital buildings.”

The extent of the seismic issues facing Grey Hospital have become very apparent over the past few months as detailed engineering assessments of all buildings have been completed. Emergency work has already commenced on the Hannan Ward Block to bring its strength up to just above earthquake prone. In addition, extensive and urgent electrical work will shortly commence to address key risks with the hospital’s electrical infrastructure, and urgent building reconfigurations are underway to enable the Morice [seaward] building to be vacated because engineering evaluations have concluded that this building has a critical structural weakness. The total cost of this urgent work, all of which is necessary to ensure continued provision of health services from Grey Base Hospital in the immediate term, will be close to $2.0m. It is unplanned capital expenditure that the DHB can ill afford but must spend.

“We also have to consider Health Benefits Ltd’s call for expressions of interest in the provision of laundry services for all DHBs in the South Island. This will, assuming it proceeds, result in rationalisation of laundry services currently operated by individual boards or hospitals. It is a difficult, but fiscally more responsible, option to propose that we continue with the temporary arrangement with CLS until our options under the HBL proposal become clear” says David Meates.
The consultation document on the proposed changes released to staff remains open for submissions until 14 December.
ENDS

Editors’ note:
Health Benefits Limited [HBL] was established in July 2010 to reduce costs and deliver savings in administrative, support and procurement services for the health sector. It is charged with delivering $700 million of savings in the health sector over five years. This includes investigating opportunities for sharing services used by all DHBs such as laundry, catering, administrative services etc.

Since the laundry was closed in May, the WCDHB has received the results of Detailed Engineering Evaluations [DEEs] conducted on Grey Base Hospital. These revealed that large parts of the Grey Base Hospital campus are earthquake prone and require extensive and immediate remediation work.

The current state of the Grey Base Hospital buildings represent a risk to the provision of health services for people on the West Coast. Having safe buildings out of which to deliver core health services is an absolute priority for the WCDHB. However, funding must be found to address these issues and, in this context, upwards of a million dollars to restore the laundry building and equipment when there is a real possibility that they might not be needed in the short to medium term because of the HBL proposals, cannot be justified when money needs to be found for buildings that must be fit to provide health care.

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