19 Coast laundry workers facing axe

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 13:13 23/11/2012
Grey Base hospital
DISRUPTION: Buildings at Grey Base Hospital are earthquake-prone.

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Nineteen West Coasters could lose their jobs with the district's health board after the building their hospital laundry service was based in was deemed to be earthquake-prone. 

The West Coast District Health Board (WCDHB) is considering closing its laundry permanently after the Grey Base Hospital building was closed in May. 

The board told staff today that it planned to continue with the current temporary arrangement with Canterbury Linen Services to supply hospital linen. 

The Christchurch-based Canterbury Linen Services is owned by the Canterbury District Health Board and is the largest commercial laundry in the South Island.

WCDHB chief executive David Meates said the cost of bringing Greymouth Hospital's buildings up to a safe seismic standard, coupled with potential changes to DHB laundry services across the South Island, meant it was ''neither affordable, nor responsible, to invest in new laundry services locally''.

The board had continued to pay West Coast laundry staff since the building was deemed earthquake-prone, but was now proposing to disestablish 18 laundry roles and one of two permanent driving positions. 

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

"We deeply regret the anxiety this proposal will cause laundry staff and drivers and their families, but we have little choice.''

The DHB would need to spent about $1 million to bring the laundry building up to current earthquake standards and upgrade laundry equipment which was near the end of its useful life, Meates said.

The board had already spent almost $2 million on urgent work to ensure health services could continue at Grey Base Hospital in the short-term. 

Emergency work was currently underway to strengthen the Hannan Ward Block, while extensive and urgent electrical work was about to begin to address problems with the hospital's electrical infrastructure.

Urgent building reconfigurations were also underway to allow the Morice building to be vacated after engineering evaluations found the building had a critical structural weakness. 

Staff had until December 14 to make submissions on the board's proposal.

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- The Press

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