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Cuts to cleaning increasing deadly infection risks for Ontario patients
Are Ontario's hospitals clean enough to keep deadly bacteria from infecting already ill and immune-compromised hospital patients?
With real provincial funding for hospital services falling for years, concerns are growing that Ontario hospitals do not have the capacity and enough cleaning staff to keep bedrails, mattresses, taps, door handles and chairs sterilised and bacteria-free.
Scientists and doctors have raised concerns about the growing resistance to antibiotic treatment of hospital-acquired infections. "They say the risks are growing and the superbug infections are getting worse," says Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) president Michael Hurley. "But hospital environmental service staff believe that government and hospital policies are making this growing threat even worse.
"Patient safety and reducing the risk of acquiring and transmitting infection should be the priority, not cutting costs on environmental cleaning."
OCHU is the hospital division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) which represents about 35,000 hospital staff, in Ontario. In November 2016, CUPE surveyed hospital sector members on cuts to environmental cleaning. A study (Hospital-Acquired Infections: Stop Preventable Deaths) that melds the survey findings with recent public health agency and other research reports released today.
Significant provincial funding cuts have resulted in high hospital bed occupancy levels, overcrowding and a rapid turnover of patients. Speaking at a press conference today, Nicholas Black, a hospital cleaner and OCHU regional vice-president -Northern Ontario
said: "All these are factors associated with the spread of hospital-acquired infections.
"Overcrowded hospitals and insufficient staff hampers our efforts to keep up with the cleaning and sterilising of patient rooms and common areas. Housekeepers fear the cuts create too many opportunities for the spread of infection."
About 10% of adults in Canadian hospitals are said to have a hospital-acquired infection.
"Approximately 3,200 Ontario patients will die from a hospital acquired infection in 2017, while about 2,000 people will die in automobile accidents, making HAI a leading cause of death and one that is largely preventable," he says.
5th January 2017