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TORONTO, Ont.  The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE (OCHU) today called on Ontario’s health minister to follow the lead of the Netherlands and significantly reduce the number of preventable patient deaths in the province’s hospitals.

The Dutch government program set a goal of reducing health care-related harm – including patients acquiring infections while in hospital – by 50 per cent over five years. The British Medical Journal now reports the Dutch are on target to meet their goal.

Prioritizing patient safety and reducing preventable deaths must be taken seriously by the health minister,” says OCHU president Michael Hurley. “Contrast the determination of the Dutch with a population of nearly 17 million, to bring down death rates from health care adverse events to 1,000 with our sorry performance. Ontario, with a population of 13.5 million sees an estimated 5,000 patients die each year from infection and drug and other medical error-related events while in hospital.”

Bringing down infections rates and incidents of medical error saves lives and scarce health dollars, says Hurley. Patients who contract infections stay in hospital between 15-21 days. Prolonging patients’ stay in hospital stalls admissions because there are so few hospital beds available.

Ontario’s approach, says Hurley, “stands in stark contrast to the efforts in the Netherlands.” Ontario has a hospital bed occupancy rate of 98 per cent and our central strategy to prevent hospital acquired infections is hand washing. The Netherlands has a bed occupancy rate of about 65 per cent.

Evidence suggests that the keys to improving hospital patient safety are to lower hospital bed occupancy, increase in-house infection control and nursing staff, reduce lengths of shifts for hospital physicians, screen and treat patients in long-term care with infectious diseases like MRSA on site and decrease prescription of antibiotics, among other measures.

It’s time for Ontario to take this leading cause of patient death seriously,” Hurley says.

For more information please contact:

Michael Hurley, President Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE) 416-884-0770

Stella Yeadon, Canadian Unions of Public Employees (CUPE) Communications 416-559-9300