Hospital-Acquired Infections: Stop Preventable Deaths

Source: Ontario Council of Hospital Unions and Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), 2017

From the summary:
With provincial funding for Ontario hospital services falling for years, understaffing is getting worse in hospital environmental services, with reports of layoffs and cuts occurring regularly, a survey of front line cleaning staff has found. Concerns are growing among environmental service workers 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.

In the fall of 2016, the CUPE completed a survey of 421 hospital housekeeping staff from over 60 hospitals right across Ontario. Hospital-Acquired Infections: Stop Preventable Deaths, that melds the survey findings with recent public health agency and other research reports, was released in Cornwall today.

The survey revealed a disturbing pattern of speed up, working short, high levels of stress and injury at work. A large majority (78 per cent) report that more duties have been added to their work. Accordingly, a large majority (76 per cent) report working at a faster rate. Over half believe the situation is unsafe. As well, 40 per cent of hospital locals report that hospital environmental service hours have been cut, in the last year alone.

Seventy per cent of housekeeping staff also report working short. This occurs when staff who are off of work for vacation, sick leave, training, or other reasons are not replaced.

Infection can easily spread from patient to patient through personal touch or by touching contaminated shared surfaces. “There just aren’t enough cleaning staff to properly clean patient rooms, bathrooms and common areas to prevent infection. Because we are often working short, we are given additional duties and workloads for cleaning staff are enormous. Increasing staffing levels would go a long way to ensuring a safer environment for patients/clients, families, staff, physicians and volunteers,” says Nicholas Black a hospital cleaner.

The Public Health Agency of Canada reports that more than 200,000 patients get infections every year while receiving healthcare in Canada and that more than 8,000 of these patients, more than 3,000 of them Ontario patients, die as a result.