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Toronto - While the Ontario health ministry has responded to the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) province-wide campaign to fight hospital-acquired infections by announcing the launch of a new “infection control core competency pilot project”, the ministry’s action appears woefully inadequate, says Michael Hurley, president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions.

Studies show that hospital-acquired infections kill between 8,000 and 12,000 patients each year in Canada, with the majority of these deaths in Ontario. Thirty to fifty per cent of hospital-acquired infections are preventable.

For the province to announce that a pilot project will start in the fall indicates that they are not overly concerned with taking immediate action that will save people’s lives now, and that they have learned nothing from SARS. The superbug crisis is immediate. A pilot project, that will take several years to complete, is typical of the ministry’s laissez-faire approach, which can prove deadly as we learned from SARS.

This seems like a woefully inadequate way to address a problem that affects patients throughout the province. Instead, this government is focused on an overhaul of the health system based on a health care model in the United Kingdom that has not been beneficial for patients,” says Hurley.

In the U.K., where for-profit hospitals are common, the rate of hospital-acquired infections has skyrocketed. Cuts in cleaning staff and poor infection control by for-profit companies have fed this development. Now the UK government must pump additional funding into the health system just to control the spread of superbug infections. Polls show that dirty hospitals and hospital-acquired infections are the number one issue for patients in the U.K., well ahead of any other problems in the health care system.

”No one should come out of a hospital with a disease they didn’t have before going in. With adequate resources and the ability to hire more cleaners, Ontario hospitals could avoid the fate of the U.K. and control superbug infections now before they become rampant in our hospitals,” says Hurley.

CUPE’s mobile hospital room display — aimed at raising awareness about the threat of hospital-acquired infections — has already toured the Niagara region, Toronto, Kingston and Windsor. Throughout July, the mobile exhibit will be in Guelph, Sudbury, North Bay, Ottawa, Oshawa, Stratford, Cornwall, Brockville, Lindsay, Peterborough, Pembroke, Burlington and London.

For more information, please contact:

Michael Hurley President, OCHU/CUPE (416) 884-0770
Stella Yeadon CUPE Communications (416) 578-8774