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At a Windsor media conference today, hospital staff urged Ontario’s health minister to bring down death rates from hospital-acquired infections by lowering hospital occupancy rates, doing a deep clean of Ontario’s hospitals and providing more resources for cleaning and infection control. 

The recent deaths of 20 patients at Ontario hospitals – the majority of them in the Niagara region – from C. difficile has drawn widespread attention to the issue of hospital-acquired infectionswhich are the fourth-leading cause of death and kill between 3,500 and 5,000 people in Ontario hospitals each year. At least one-half of these deaths are preventable.

Sharon Richer, the northern Ontario president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), said at today’s media conference that the suffering and deaths of thousands of Ontarians from hospital-acquired infections are so regrettable because they are indeed preventable. In an effort to increase public awareness of the issue, OCHU/CUPE has launched a tour of 30 Ontario communities using a theatre set representing a hospital room to demonstrate the disinfection of a room that has been occupied by a patient with a superbug like C. difficile, VRE orMRSA.

Health care leaders make a direct connection between hospital overcrowding and superbug outbreaks. The Ministry of Health has supervised the closure of 18,500 beds over the last 20 years, with over 600 cut in just this last year. Hospital bed occupancy is at a record level (over 97 per cent) and Ontario has fewer hospital beds per 1,000 of the population than any province. Countries, like the Netherlands, with much lower occupancy rates have correspondingly lower death rates from hospital-acquired infections. 

Public awareness about hospital-acquired infections is increasing and that is positive,” said OCHU vice-president Louis Rodrigues. “We are hopeful that the Ontario government responds accordingly by requiring hospitals to report deaths of patients with superbug infections.” 

Richer and Rodrigues called on the province “to provide resources for a deep clean of Ontario hospitals as the United Kingdom has done. Contracted-out hospital cleaning, a practice the Royal College of Nurses has said is dangerous and unsafe, should be prohibited. And, we need more resources for cleaning on an ongoing basis and for infection control.” 

The OCHU mobile hospital room will be in London on Tuesday, July 12, and in St. Catharines on Wednesday, July 13. 

For more information, please contact: 

Sharon Richer             Northern Ontario VP, OCHU/CUPE        (705) 698-6668          

Louis Rodrigues          First VP, OCHU/CUPE                             (613) 531-1319

Stella Yeadon              CUPE Communications                           (416) 559-9300