News | June 27, 2024

'Profit-Taking Will Undermine Patient Safety And Lead To Higher Death Rates': CUPE Reacts To Etobicoke General Hospital's Decision To Privatize Housekeeping And Ancillary Services

Toronto, ON (BUSINESS WIRE) - Etobicoke General Hospital is moving ahead with privatization of housekeeping, waste management, laundry, and portering services despite strong opposition from staff represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Earlier in June, the union organized a demonstration after hearing about the hospital’s privatization plan, which will impact 224 jobs.

“The hospital is making a big mistake that will hurt patients, visitors and staff,” says Erica Young, of CUPE 145, the union representing staff at the hospital. “Evidence shows that privatization of cleaning is linked to higher superbug infection rates due to poor infection control. When you consider the potential impact on people’s lives, it’s a reckless decision that is impossible to justify.”

In Canada, superbug infections in hospitals are increasing. The Canadian Nosocomial Surveillance Program’s 2017-2021 report shows higher rates of MRSA and VRE infections.

According to the World Health Organization, cleaners “are the first line of defense against health care-associated infections, and support efforts to reduce antimicrobial resistance.”

But research shows that appropriate staffing levels and rigorous infection control practices are key to maintaining good hygiene in health care settings, which are compromised by privatization.

“Significant profit margins for private contractors will lead to lower staffing levels, higher staff turnover, and fractured teamwork between cleaners and infection control specialists,” says Michael Hurley, president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE). “It’s hard to believe that the hospital is willing to risk people’s lives. Hospital management should back away from plans to privatize that will surely lead to the spread of hospital acquired infections and, in some cases, death.”

Young, an operating room technician with 30 years of experience as a hospital worker, says the privatization of portering will cause delays and backlogs at the hospital due to reduced portering staff.

She said missed appointments would lengthen hospital stays and contribute to overcrowding, which would only compound the hygiene concerns caused by contracting out of housekeeping. She says the union will “wage a strong campaign that unites health care workers, community allies and residents” until the hospital reverses its decision.

The privatization of housekeeping services has failed in multiple jurisdictions, she says, citing a CUPE research report. In Scottish hospitals, after a disastrous experiment with contracting out, the prevalence of C. difficile was reduced by 37 per cent after cleaning services were brought back in-house.

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