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At a Sioux Lookout 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.

Sharon Richer, the northern Ontario president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), said the suffering and deaths of thousands of Ontarians from hospital-acquired infections are so regrettable because they are preventable. To draw attention to this leading cause of preventable death, OCHU/CUPE has launched a 15-community tour of northern Ontario, 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 or MRSA.

Studies suggest that hospital-acquired infections kill between 3,200 and 5,000 Ontarians each year. While health care leaders make a direct connection between hospital overcrowding to superbug outbreaks, the Ontario government plans to cut another 5,000 acute care beds province-wide. 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.

Between 1991 and 2003, a period when 16,000 hospital beds were cut in Ontario, the rate of patients contracting C. difficile increased almost fivefold. Outbreaks of other types of hospital-associated infections also rose. 

The mobile hospital room tour will visit Kenora and Fort Frances on June 9 and 10 respectively. 

We hope to significantly raise public awareness this spring,” said Marc Lafrance, OCHU Francophone vice-president. “The Ontario government needs to require hospitals to report their death rates from hospital-acquired infections, as other jurisdictions do.” 

Richer and Lafrance 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.” 

For more information:

Sharon Richer, Northern Ontario VP, OCHU/CUPE
Marc Lafrance, Francophone VP, OCHU/CUPE
Louis Rodrigues, First VP, OCHU/CUPE
Call satellite phone number: 1-480-768-2500 and wait for prompt to enter: 88-163-185-6102

Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications, (416) 559-9300