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Toronto The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) is calling on the Ontario government to reinvest in frontline cleaning staff in hospitals across the province as a first step to halting the spread of the infectious C. Difficile virus after two recent deaths were blamed on the disease at the Cornwall Community Hospital in Eastern Ontario.

Governments have been cutting frontline health care staff, including cleaning and support staff, in our hospitals for years, says Michael Hurley, president of OCHU, a part of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). At a minimum, the government should launch an immediate investigation into the cause of recent outbreaks of C. Difficile. OCHU has also called for the government to convene a meeting with hospital and long-term care managers, public health officials, doctors and unions to develop a swift plan of action to prevent further deaths.

Under the Harris and Eves governments in Ontario, hospitals were forced to reduce frontline staff, and some hospitals have contracted out cleaning services to private companies.

It is highly plausible that cutbacks to frontline cleaning staff is one of the reasons a virus, thats been around for decades, has suddenly made a deadly, more widespread comeback in our hospitals, warns Hurley. Cleaning staff have more square footage to clean, less time to clean it, and in some cases, private companies, with profit motives, have taken over the cleaning. Its time for governments and hospital administrators to realize patient care demands dedicated public services in all areas of hospital work.

The Ontario government has no apparent plans to convene an emergency meeting or to put forward a comprehensive plan to halt the spread of Clostridium Difficile.

The lessons of the SARS crisis have not been learned, says Hurley. How many patients have to die before the government is spurred into action on this crisis?

Clostridium Difficile, also known as C. Difficile, can spread quickly throughout an institution, from patient to patient, or from caregivers to patients.

We also need to look at other contributing factors, like cutbacks to nursing and other frontline care, that force hospital workers to hold several part-time jobs in different institutions, adds Hurley. You can have the best doctors in the world, but if you dont have adequate resources invested in cleaning and disinfecting our hospitals, or adequate infection control programs in place, more patients will die.

For further information, please contact:

Michael Hurley, OCHU President: 416-884-0770
James Chai, CUPE Communications: 416-292-3999