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  • Volume Eight, Number Five: July 2003

    Formal FOI appeal launched to force release of laundry privatization deal

    First they turned to the courts to compel the Fraser Health Authority to open its board meetings to area residents. Now the Hospital Employees Union is appealing to BC's freedom of information commissioner to force the FHA to make public the full details of a controversial 10-year laundry privatization contract.

    HEU spokesperson Zorica Bosancic says a formal appeal has been lodged with the office of information and privacy commissioner David Loukidelis because the health authority formally rebuffed the union's efforts to end the web of secrecy around the arrangement. HEU had first made a request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act in January in an effort to make the details of the problem-plagued deal public.

    "This level of secrecy and lack of openness and accountability from a public health authority is unacceptable," says Bosancic. "What have they got to hide?"

    Bosancic challenges the FHA to release the contract that involves shipping dirty laundry from Fraser Valley hospitals to the Calgary plant of U.S.-controlled K-Bro Linen Systems. She says it's in the public interest to allow for outside scrutiny and independent analysis of cost saving claims and performance guarantees.

    "If the deal has tough performance guarantees that safeguard quality service as the FHA claims, then prove it by making the document public," she says. "In terms of cost savings, let's allow for an outside review to see if the numbers really add up.

    Bosancic says that existing freedom of information precedents covering similar contracts between public bodies like hospitals and private companies are already very clear. "At the end of the day, we will be successful in making the contract public. We expect though that the FHA could stall the process for as much as 18 months through procedural delays, which would obviously be counter to the public interest."

    Bosancic says her union has filed a separate FOI request for the recent privatized security contract between the FHA and Intercon Security, which is a subsidiary of a Toronto-based multinational.

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