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Toronto – The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) today put a mobile hospital room on a tour of the province in its campaign to fight the spread of superbug infections at Ontario hospitals. Hospital-acquired infections kill 8,000 to 12,000 people each year making this the 4th biggest killer in Canada. Of the 220,000 hospital-acquired infections in Canada each year, 30 to 50 per cent are preventable.

Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU), CUPE’s hospital division, said the Ontario Liberals must make preventing patient deaths due to hospital-acquired infections, a priority.

At a Queen’s Park media conference, Hurley called on the province to:

  • Legislate mandatory reporting of hospital-acquired infections at all Ontario hospitals.
  • Initiate an immediate review of infection control and cleaning protocols at all hospitals.
  • Adequately fund hospitals so they can hire more cleaners.
  • End the use of contract cleaners at Ontario hospitals.

Six U.S. states have mandatory reporting of hospital-acquired infections, and legislation is pending in 29 more. It is required in Great Britain. System-wide reporting would allow the province to set benchmarks and measure the progress being made to curb infection rates and give patients valuable information about the risk of contracting an infection at a particular hospital.

Meticulous cleaning of hospitals is key to containing superbug infections, yet the Ontario health minister has forced hospitals to find “efficiencies” by cutting cleaning staff among others, said Hurley.

Recent VRE (vancomycin-resistant enterococci) and MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus) outbreaks at two Niagara region hospitals, and an MRSA infection at Kingston General Hospital, prompted CUPE to begin the campaign. The mobile hospital room display will tour the province this summer to raise awareness in communities about the threat of hospital-acquired infections, and to demonstrate how vital cleaners are to controlling hospital infection rates.

A provincewide superbug hotline (1-888-599-0770), where patients, family members and hospital staff can report outbreaks of infectious diseases, has also been activated.

The union, which represents more than 30,000 hospital workers in Ontario, is concerned that outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant superbugs will spread, while the Ontario Liberal government is doing little to keep them in check.

For more information, please contact:
Michael Hurley - President, OCHU/CUPE, (416) 884-0770;
Stella Yeadon - CUPE Communications, (416) 578-8774.