The Columbia Journal
P.O. Box 2633 MPO,
Vancouver, British Columbia,
Canada V6B 3W8
Investigation Reveals Widespread Problems with
Housekeeping at St. Paul's Hospital
An investigation into staff concerns about deteriorating cleaning
standards at St. Paul's Hospital has triggered a call by health care
unions for an independent audit of the facility's privatized
"Falling Standards, Rising Risks", a research report produced by the BC
Nurses' Union and the Hospital Employees' Union in collaboration with
the Health Sciences Association, paints a disturbing picture of dirty
conditions and the consequences that come with over-worked,
poorly-trained workers who no longer have a direct working relationship
with either hospital staff or the Infection Control Department.
Staff observations included old feces on curtains for several days;
bedsides and bedside tables sticky with juice, again for days; no
cleaning of monitor cables, no cleaning of IV poles, and concerns about
inadequate cleaning in the TB rooms, and more.
"The conditions reported by nurses and other frontline staff at St.
Paul's are alarming," says BCNU President Debra McPherson.
"We're hearing these same concerns from nurses in the Vancouver Island
Health Authority and the Fraser Health Authority, and we've seen what
can happen to patients as a result.
"It's time for government and the health authorities to take these
concerns very seriously. We're not talking about dust bunnies
here - we're talking about bodily fluids of all descriptions on bed
rails and equipment, and empty soap and towel dispensers which makes it
difficult to maintain good hand washing."
A survey of Emergency Department staff in May found that 86 per cent
believed the overall cleanliness of the Department had declined
post-privatization, while 64 percent said housekeeping practices did
not meet commonly accepted infection control requirements.
"This report shows that unacceptable cleaning practices continued to
exist a full six months after St. Paul's housekeeping services were
handed over to the US-based multinational Aramark," says HEU acting
secretary business manager Zorica Bosancic.
"The research wasn't conducted within a few weeks of the transition to
privatized cleaning services - it was undertaken six months
later. And we know from frontline staff and members of the public
that those same inadequate practices continue today."
Bosancic says the link between infection control and hospital
housekeeping services is critical. "The public needs to feel
confident that their safety isn't at risk when they enter a
hospital. Only a full, independent investigation will ensure