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UNITE warned today that “systematic failures” by outsourcing giant Mitie could expose staff and patients to Covid-19 at a West Midlands hospital.
The union condemned the company for running a “laissez-faire” regime with regards to pandemic health and safety measures at Dudley hospital, where it holds a facility management contract with the NHS Dudley Hospital Trust.
Mitie’s staff are not confined to the firm’s hospital headquarters but work throughout all Dudley Group buildings, greatly increasing concerns about cross-contamination, Unite said.
The union has identified a number of other major concerns with Mitie’s practices including a lack of social distancing, ventilation, and hand sanitiser, a failure to require staff and visitors to sign in, and poor security.
It comes after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) took the rare step of issuing a notice of contravention on the company in relation to Covid-19 safety, but rather than close the facility, the HSE has given Mitie time to improve its procedures.
Unite regional officer Su Lowe said: “This is one of the worst workplaces I have attended as a union officer since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Unite welcomes the intervention of the HSE, but this should never have been necessary. This is a large well-resourced company and strict Covid-secure policies and practices should have been in place for well over a year.”
Ms Lowe stressed that keeping NHS staff and patients safe should be the “first thought of every company” working for the health service, and she reassured Unite members that the union would “continue to hold management’s feet to the fire.”
A Mitie spokesperson said: “The safety and wellbeing of employees and patients at the Trust is our top priority. This includes maintaining a Covid-secure workplace for our colleagues as well as following government guidance regarding the use of hand sanitiser, personal protective equipment, social distancing and other measures.
"We are working closely with HSE in relation to this matter.”
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