Hospital bugs could kill 3,200, study warns

By Dan Brown, The London Free Press

As many as 3,200 Ontario hospital patients will die this year from infections such as C. difficile that they acquire in hospital.

That’s according to a study by the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions that was released Monday in London and other cities.

The council, part of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), represents about 35,000 hospital staff .

The study is called Hospital-Acquired Infections: Stop Preventable Deaths. It’s based on findings of a CUPE survey of Ontario hospital workers on cuts to environmental cleaning and recent research by public health agencies.

“There just aren’t enough cleaning staff to properly clean patient rooms, bathrooms and common areas to prevent infections,” said union official Nicholas Black.

“Increasing staffing levels would go a long way to ensuring a safer environment for patients/clients, families, staff, physicians and volunteers.”

Black, a member of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, points to numbers from the Public Health Agency of Canada indicating more than 8,000 patients across the country die every year from infections they get while receiving health care.

“It all comes back to funding,” said Black, who is a hospital cleaner.

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.

Jeff Yurek is the Progressive Conservative MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London who also serves as opposition health critic.

“I don’t know about a true number, I don’t know if that’s adequately tracked,” he said of the estimate of the number of hospital patients who become infected and die.

What Yurek said he does know is that Ontario has the second-highest rate of sepsis in Canada among the provinces.

“It’s something we’ve been looking at as we sift through the auditor general’s report,” he said.

“It’s not as simple as giving them more money,” Yurek said when asked about a solution.

“It’s more that has to be done.”

According to Black, overprescription of antibiotics also is to blame. “Studies suggest we are only helping super bugs evolve.”

Yurek said there are about 4,000 people waiting for long-term care beds in the province, which backs the system up.

“We’ve been asking the questions with regards to the frozen funding and the underfunding (of health care).”