A 12 week trial to outsource vital deep cleaning work at Noble’s Hospital to G4S has angered the union representing staff.
Unite’s regional officer Eric Holmes hit out at the plan saying no other firm was given the chance to tender for the work. He says the usual way in which government projects are undertaken has been ‘deliberately ignored.’
A Department of Health statement said: ‘No jobs whatsoever are under threat from this move and normal housekeeping duties continue to be undertaken by in-house staff.
‘Currently the teams within the hospital’s Operations Division, such as porters and housekeepers, are responsible for deep cleans, but as work of this nature is reactive and unplanned, it causes disruption to normal portering and housekeeping duties, having a knock-on effect on the smooth operation of the hospital and services to patients.’
Deep cleans are required following an outbreak of infectious disease.
‘The deep clean service usually only amounts to a few hours per month, hence why the management is looking at innovative ways to tackle the disruption it causes,’ said the department.
‘Staff have flagged to management the issue of disruption and the strain this work places on already full schedules for normal duties.
‘Management has agreed to take this step of outsourcing to address staff concerns.’
But Unite is not happy with the trial. Mr Holmes hits out at the plan in a letter to Treasury Minister Eddie Teare MHK. He said: ‘I attended a late night meeting with regards to a contract that had been awarded to G4S to trial a 12 week terminal cleaning programme at Noble’s Hospital.
‘It transpired under questioning that no other cleaning company on-island had been given opportunity to tender for this trial contract.
‘I have no way of confirming that point from outside of government,’ continued Mr Holmes.
‘I am concerned that the procurement service route under which it is customary to apply, if wishing to be selected for government contracts has been deliberately ignored in this instance unless G4S has an exemption that is not public knowledge, and if this is the case under which criteria?’
Referring to Mr Teare, he continued: ‘I know that you have been outspoken in regards to the procurement procedure and know that you will also share my concerns in regards to this assumed omission under which we have had no consultation or evidencing either.
‘Should this be correct then obviously I would like you to investigate and also answer the following question.
‘Which other firms are exempt, and under which criteria, and is there a list available to identify them?
‘Open knowledge like this would also reassure contractors that it was an open and transparent tendering process they apply to work under,’ said Mr Holmes.
The Department of Health responded to the Union, saying: ‘Noble’s Hospital has agreed a 12 week trial with a local cleaning firm to undertake ad-hoc deep cleaning at the hospital.
‘The trial will be evaluated after the 12 week period has ended.
‘At that point, should outsourcing of this work be deemed viable as a long term approach, contractors which form part of the Building and Window Cleaning Framework Agreement, as established by Treasury’s Central Procurement Team, will be approached to undertake the work, or, if required, a tendering exercise will be carried out,’ said the department.
‘It’s important to note that Noble’s Hospital management have taken this step in order to address concerns raised by housekeepers themselves with regards to the disruption deep cleaning can cause to their normal and already full work schedules - as deep cleans are often required at short notice for a few hours at a time.
‘Deep cleans can also impact on patient care as nursing staff are involved in this process.
‘The move will put extra capacity in the system to accommodate the requirement to undertake deep cleans without compromising normal housekeeping duties or patient care,’ continued the department.
‘The work involved is based on incidences of infectious disease and as such has no fixed pattern, making an on-call contractor the most appropriate option.’
Chief Minister Allan Bell insisted: ‘This isn’t a first step towards wholesale privatisation.
‘It’s actually designed to improve the situation and take the pressure off the porters.’