THE private company who manage the maintenance and repairs at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh plan to move the operation through to Lanarkshire with a potential loss of jobs.
Around 13 dedicated facilities management staff are facing compulsory redundancy as French contractor ENGIE plan to up sticks and ship their estates call desk to Bellshill in May.
The help desk, which is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, is the first point of contact for hospital staff wanting to report maintenance issues in the RIE.
The desk will then allocate any repair job to the team of tradespeople who work at the hospital and are also employed by the French firm.
The move is part of a centralisation involving facilities help desks at three major Scottish hospitals – the RIE, the Victoria in Kirkcaldy and New Stobhill Hospital in Glasgow – all run by ENGIE and set to operate from their site in the Strathclyde Business Park. In 2003, Lothian NHS Trust awarded ENGIE a 25-year contract to deliver integrated facilities management to the then new-build Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. Union bosses and staff believe the firm may have breached the terms of the original Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract which may have stipulated the firm mainatain a help desk presence at the hospital.
Last night furious workers contacted the Evening News to raise their concerns over the proposed move.
A member of staff who wished to remain annonymous said: “This is a disgrace, the estates call desk is run by ENGIE as part of the PFI project which runs services at the RIE. Staff cannot realistically travel to Bellshill for their shift pattern which includes 7am starts.
“This is a huge backward step and possibly against original PFI agreements which may have specified a call desk to be kept on the premises. ENGIE are paid under PFI to provide a service and are downgrading.
“Centralising these services leaves the health service open to more errors – similar to the problems we’ve seen with the centralised Police Scotland.”
The controversial PFI system was set up by John Major’s Conservative government in 1992. It aimed to create “public-private partnerships” where private firms are contracted to complete public projects.
Unison branch chair Tom Waterson said: “There are 13 posts affected in Edinburgh, we’ve been in discussions with the private contractors and the NHS. We do not expect any staff redundancies from this and will go into a formal dispute with the company over the coming days. Staff in these times of austerity want their jobs not redundancy payments.”
Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said: “These are deeply concerning reports. Patients and staff across Edinburgh, Glasgow and Fife will rightly want clarity on what these proposed changes will mean. It is essential the SNP government and health boards work with Unison to ensure this plan is legal and that it will not adversely affect staff and patients.”