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Are Ontario’s hospitals, including the Brockville General Hospital 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 sterilized and bacteria free.

Scientists and doctors have raised concerns about the growing resistance to antibiotic treatment of hospital-acquired infections (HAI). “They say the risks are growing and the superbug infections are getting worse.  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,” says Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) president Michael Hurley.

OCHU is the hospital division of 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 will be released in Brockville on Thursday, January 5, 2017 at 1 p.m. The media conference will be held at the Brockville Public Library, Buell Street Room, 23 Buell Street.

Significant provincial funding cuts have resulted in high hospital bed occupancy levels, overcrowding and a rapid turnover of patients. “All these are factors associated with the spread of hospital-acquired infections,” says Nicholas Black, a hospital cleaner speaking at the Brockville media conference Thursday. “Overcrowded hospitals and insufficient staff hampers our efforts to keep up with the cleaning and sterilizing of patient rooms and common areas. Housekeepers fear the cuts create too many opportunities for the spread of infection.”

About 10 per cent of adults in Canadian hospitals 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,” says Black.