Auditor General urged to audit hospital cleaning in four health authorities

New cleaning concerns emerge at Burnaby and Eagle Ridge hospitals
News release

Amidst growing concerns over deteriorating standards of hospital cleanliness, the BC Nurses’ Union and Hospital Employees’ Union are urging the BC Auditor General to carry out a thorough audit of housekeeping services in four health authorities.

The call was prompted by inadequate and patchwork responses by health authorities and the provincial government to recent media reports on hospital cleaning.

Last month, the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority announced a three-week long audit of hospital cleaning after news reports of poor performance under the $100 million housekeeping services contract it signed last year.

But VCHA did not release the name of the company carrying out the audit, or its terms of reference.

“Three weeks is not enough time to review all aspects of housekeeping as they relate to infection control and patient and staff safety,” said HEU acting secretary business manager Zorica Bosancic. “We also have no idea if the audit will touch on the factors we’ve identified as critical to a successful investigation.”

Those factors were outlined in a joint union report Falling Standards, Rising Risks: Issues of hospital cleanliness with contracting out released in November. The report documented numerous concerns over poor cleaning and inadequate infection control at St. Paul’s Hospital.

Similar concerns have come to light within two Fraser Health Authority hospitals.

A survey conducted amongst staff in the emergency department at Burnaby Hospital also found sub-standard cleaning and lack of attention to infection control.

“The general feeling is that the hospital is not being consistently cleaned to an appropriate standard,” says BCNU regional chair and Burnaby Hospital registered nurse Melanie Leckovic.

“There aren’t enough cleaners to do the job properly. The numbers might be appropriate for a hotel, where a room is cleaned once a day but when you’re dealing with a patient with diarrhea or if someone is hemorrhaging, you might have to call for a cleaner numerous times a shift and they can’t cope. This means extra work for nurses because we either have to contact the cleaning call centre which is located outside the hospital, or are forced to take on some cleaning ourselves. And that takes us away from our patients.”

And at a meeting at Eagle Ridge Hospital, the same kinds of incidents were described by nurses and other health care workers.

“These concerns, plus the fact that the review of Surrey Memorial Hospital regarding the women who had life-threatening infections after c-sections doesn’t include a look at the role housekeeping may have played, point to the need for the Auditor General’s office to get involved,” says Bosancic.

“We’ve asked for a thorough audit of housekeeping services in the Fraser Health Authority, Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, including Providence Health Care, the Provincial Health Services Authority and the Vancouver Island Health Authority.”

For more information contact: Melanie Leckovic, BCNU Regional Chair 604 785 2752 (cell) Mike Old, HEU Communications Director 604 828 6771 (cell)