The New South Wales opposition is warning of hospital acquired infections (HAIs) outbreaks following reports of a drastic drop in the number of cleaners at some of that State’s busiest hospitals.
The newspaper said Opposition health spokesman Andrew McDonald cited a recent report that found Royal North Shore Hospital was down 67 full time cleaners compared to numbers in 2010.
During the same period Westmead Hospital lost 20 full time cleaners while the Nepean Hospital was down 25.
Across the greater Sydney region there has been an overall loss of 139 full time cleaners, according to Dr McDonald.
“Slashing the number of cleaners in our hospitals is a huge infection risk and highly dangerous,” he is quoted as saying.
The average hospital cleaner cleaned a minimum of 35 beds per week or 1820 beds per year, while unclean beds, wards and operating theatres could lead to serious and deadly infections, Dr McDonald noted.
“Golden Staph and Vancomycin Resistant Enterococci (VRE) still kill people in NSW hospitals in 2013,” he warned.
“Cutting the number of cleaners also means vacant beds are left empty for hours until they can be cleaned, while more patients sit waiting to be admitted in the emergency department.”
Dr McDonald blamed the staff reductions on the O’Farrell government’s $3 billion cut to health funding.
“A huge reduction in cleaners and the number of cleaning hours in our hospital is what happens when you cut $3 billion from the health system.”
But a spokeswoman for Northern Sydney Local Health District denied the cuts.
She said Royal North Shore Hospital had employed 44 more cleaners since July 2011, taking the number of cleaners to 186. This represents a 30 per cent increase in staff, she added.
A spokeswoman for Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District said cleaning staff at Nepean Hospital had increased by 7.8 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions since July 2011.
Industry consultant asks “why?”
Canadian industry consultant Mark Heller* posted a comment on www.issa.com…
“It is truly sad when politicians and health leaders debate/defend the appropriate resourcing of environmental hygiene program (after-the-fact).
“There is compelling and over-whelming clinical evidence that the hygiene of the clinical environmental plays a critical role in the transmission of pathogenic organisms. There have been numerous examples, affirming that once present in the hospital environment an ARO can pose a major risk to patient safety, reduce access to care and cost the system a lot of money to correct.
“We also know that on a unit-cost basis, environmental hygiene is one of the lowest cost preventative measures a hospital can implement to prevent and control healthcare associated infections.
“So… environmental hygiene saves lives (and money)… supports timely access to care… is a cost-effective preventative and corrective measure… AND keeps the hospital out of the media… WHY do we continue to see these types of media stories across the globe?”
*Mark Heller is a Toronto-based (Canada) operations executive ad B2B consultant, and principal of Mark Heller Consulting Inc.
Operations Executive & B2B Consultant