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HALIFAX – “Nova Scotia has done well to keep in-house cleaners in its hospitals and health care facilities, and should not turn to contracting out to save money,” says Steve Davies, a senior research fellow at Cardiff University in Wales and an expert on how cleaning helps control infections such as C. difficile, MRSA and VRE.

Davies will speak tonight at a town hall meeting at 7:30 pm at the Citadel Hotel, 1960 Brunswick Street in Halifax as he winds up a Canadian tour organized by the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Davies has observed that many of Canada’s provincial governments are going down the wrong path by contracting out health care cleaning services. “Contracting out cleaning is not the way to win the battle against health care associated infections,” says Davies “Overcrowding, understaffing and contracting out puts patients and health care workers at unnecessary risk.”

Health care associated infections are the fourth-leading cause of death in Canada, with an annual infection rate of 220,000, resulting in 8,500-12,000 deaths each year.

After contracting out their cleaning services, the Scottish ministry of health has just announced it is hiring 600 new in-house cleaning staff, and Wales is ending all contracting out. Both made the changes to reduce health care associated infections,” reports Davies, who has worked with government, employers and unions. Davies also contributed to the Romanow Commission in 2001.

We have been lucky in Nova Scotia. Most of our health care facilities have in-house cleaners,” says Karen MacKenzie, a Lab Technician and President of CUPE Local 2525. “But the MacDonald government seems to want to find cheaper ways to clean them. A recent report recommended ‘feasibility studies’ concerning ‘non-clinical support services’ and ‘public-private partnerships’. We worry that the government will see contracting out as a way to meet these recommendations.”