Perrino responds to hospital layoffs story

Pending layoff of unionized workers at Penticton hospital "downside" of public-private partnerships said Janice Perrino.

An early artist's rendering of a new ambulatory care tower at Penticton Regional Hospital.

An early artist's rendering of a new ambulatory care tower at Penticton Regional Hospital.

In her farewell speech Thursday, the outgoing head of the hospital district acknowledged the pending layoff of unionized maintenance workers in Penticton is a “downside” of public-private partnerships.

Janice Perrino, who chairs the board of the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional Hospital District and won’t stand for re-election as mayor in Summerland on Nov. 15, said a recent article in the Western News highlighted one of the challenges facing the organization.

The article revealed 14 maintenance workers at Penticton Regional Hospital will be laid off in 2016 when operation of the facility is handed over to a consortium of companies that will design, build, finance and maintain a new seven-storey tower and other improvements worth $325 million.

“It is the downside of a P3, but it’s the only way we’re going to get this major hospital expansion,” Perrino said.

“We have to encourage the P3 company to take (those laid-off workers) on, but it’s all we can do.”

Those being laid off are members of the International Union of Operating Engineers and the Hospital Employees’ Union.

Perrino also pointed out, however, that of the 55 such workers who lost their jobs after similar upgrades at hospitals in Vernon and Kelowna, only two went elsewhere, while the others retired or were taken on by the P3 group.

Lori Holloway, Interior Health’s regional director of facilities management and operations, said previously that the P3 company will need full control over the entire site well before the ambulatory care tower opens in 2019.

“The P3 partners invest a lot of money into these projects, and because plant services is such a key component of the project, they want to make sure they run plant services,” Holloway said.

“They want to make sure it’s looked after as best as possible.”

Interior Health has also noted that the PRH expansion and upgrade project is expected to create 83 net new jobs. The successful P3 partner isn’t expected to be announced until October 2015, and will likely be given a 30-year contract.