GIPPSLAND dry cleaners are in despair after the state government ditched the local laundering of Ambulance Victoria uniforms, according to The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath.

Under a new government policy, ambulance uniforms are collected from local stations, trucked hundreds of kilometres, cleaned and shipped back.

Ms Bath said it was disgraceful that Gippsland dry cleaners were again being hung out to dry by the state government’s procurement practices.

“For 10, 20 and in some cases 30 years, Gippsland dry cleaners have expertly washed uniforms for their local staff providing the highest standard under agreement with Ambulance Victoria – however, without explanation during a pandemic, Labor has stripped them of business,” she said.

“The significant increase in vehicle emissions created by the unnecessary long transportation of uniforms leaves a huge carbon footprint – Labor’s contract is neither environmentally or economically responsible.”

Speaking with Gippsland dry cleaners, Ms Bath said the state government had not displayed a “grain of courtesy” by informing them of the cancellation of their service agreements, instead leaving it to apologetic ambulance officers to break the sad news.

Ms Bath said state government procurement policies were supposed to adhere to the ‘The Local Jobs First Policy’.

“Annually, each ambulance station spends up to $10,000 with their dry cleaner – providing a stable income to keep locals in jobs,” she said.

“The Andrews’ government decision on uniform cleaning is heartless and I am calling on the decision to be rescinded.”

In response, a Department of Health spokesperson said: “As is standard practice, Ambulance Victoria launched a tender process for dry cleaning, linen and laundry services in early 2020.

“Any and all providers – no matter how big or small – were invited to tender for services in their local area.

“Unfortunately, no Gippsland-based businesses submitted a tender application.

“Businesses awarded the new contracts are based in Victoria, in both regional and metropolitan areas.”

According to the state government, it was estimated about 50 businesses provided some level of dry-cleaning service for Ambulance Victoria across the state.

However, Ms Bath said the government had failed to inform regional suppliers that a centralised state-wide contract had been advertised.

“If the Andrews’ government had a shred of decency, it would have actively communicated with the 50-plus dry cleaners who had been diligently cleaning Ambulance Victoria uniforms for many decades,” she said.