Mounting evidence links hospital cutbacks, high occupancy rates to increased risk of infection-related patient deaths



    TORONTO, June 16 /CNW Telbec/ - Ontario's health minister is ignoring
mounting evidence from the United Kingdom that links high hospital bed
occupancy rates and cuts to cleaning staff to increased risk of patients dying
from hospital-acquired infections, says the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions
(OCHU), the hospital division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE)
Ontario.
    Conditions created by government underfunding are forcing Ontario
hospitals to cut staff and increase bed occupancy rates to balance budgets.
The Rouge Valley Health System proposes cutting 220 health providers-24 of
them cleaning staff-and 36 hospital beds and, at the same time, pushing its
bed occupancy levels from 82 per cent to 95 per cent.
    According to OCHU president Michael Hurley, "this is a recipe for
disaster. Apparently the Liberal government has not learned enough from the
deaths of 62 patients at Burlington's Joseph Brant Hospital arising from the
C. difficile infection."
    At a Queen's Park media conference today Hurley pointed to British
Medical Association conclusions that the spread of hospital-acquired
infections is associated with high bed occupancy rates and movement of
patients. In its 2006 document, Healthcare Associated Infections, the
Association also points to growing international recognition of the
relationship between effective cleaning of hospitals and the spread of
infection. Hurley added that Ontario's own chief coroner stated that
overcrowding may have played a role in the C. difficile outbreak at the Sault
Area Hospital that possibly led to 26 deaths in 2006.
    Reports indicate that, since the C. difficile outbreak, Joseph Brant
Hospital has established a standard of cleaning each patient's room twice a
day and has added $1 million into hiring more cleaning staff and providing
them with better disinfectant.
    "This is what every hospital in the province should be doing to protect
the lives of our families and loved ones when they are in care. Instead,
provincial underfunding for hospitals is fueling staff cuts and higher
occupancy rates, increasing the risk of infection," says Hurley. He added
that, for the first time, a Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) is
planning to divert 1 per cent of hospital budgets to other health services in
the community. For Rouge Valley, that 1 per cent means an annual budget cut of
$2.2 million.
    "The people of Ajax, Pickering and Scarborough are already facing the
loss of health providers, beds, and cleaners, and now here's another
$2.2 million cut," said Brian Davis, President of CUPE 4365 representing Rouge
Valley hospital workers. "Ajax-Pickering and Centenary hospitals cannot
withstand the level of cuts being proposed without severely compromising their
ability to meet the heath care needs of these growing communities."




For further information:

For further information: Michael Hurley, President, OCHU, (416)
884-0770; Brian Davis, President, CUPE 4365, at Centenary, (647) 832-4037;
Betty Flood, Vice-President, CUPE 4365, at Ajax-Pickering, (905) 391-9199;
Valerie Dugale, CUPE Communications, (647) 225-3685

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Canadian Union of Public Employees - Ontario Regional Office

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