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Press Release

New study shows reducing hospital infections would save lives and Ontario health system $400 million a year

Canada NewsWire

TORONTO, Sept. 17, 2013 /CNW/ - While the primary motivation to invest in proactive, preventative measures to fight the most common hospital acquired infections (HAIs) should be to save lives, a new American study published earlier this month in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that decreasing HAIs would save hospitals millions of dollars in costs associated with treating infections each year. 

The study found that health care-linked infections cost the U.S. nearly $10 billion each year. Based on population numbers, just these five HAIs cost Ontario about $400 million a year. Yet, the study reports that at least half of these infections could be prevented.

An accompanying note from JAMA editors says the journal chose to publish the study in order to "motivate health care administrators to invest in the necessary systems to decrease these infections." 

For nearly a decade the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) the hospital division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has urged the provincial government to invest health care funding resources to decrease HAIs at Ontario hospitals.

Unfortunately, superbug rates in Ontario hospitals have not declined significantly. The lack of progress has occurred even while the province's main strategy to reduce superbugs - hand-washing - has improved markedly. "Clearly more needs to be done," OCHU president Michael Hurley notes.

In other jurisdictions like Britain, where a number of key initiatives were put in place, including an ongoing program of deep cleaning hospitals, C. difficile cases have decreased considerably since their peak in 2007-08. In the same period, Ontario has not achieved any significant decline in hospital superbugs. 

Ontario hospital bed over-crowding is at near world record levels and hospital housekeeping has seen cuts for decades. 

"Thousands of patient deaths resulting from HAIs are preventable. Part of the solution has to be decreasing bed occupancy and increasing cleaning. Now we have the findings of an expansive medical study that shows HAI prevention also saves hospitals considerable costs associated with treating infections. It would be good medicine and fiscally responsible for our provincial health minister to invest in the necessary system changes to decrease HAI rates," says OCHU president Michael Hurley.

While the study published in JAMA on September 2, 2013, is the most recent research to show that investing in preventing HAIs results in considerable cost savings, there have been many similar studies in the last decade. A 2009 study from the U.S. Centre for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that the benefits of prevention range from a low of $5.7 billion (estimating that only 20 percent of infections are preventable) to a high of $31.5 billion.

SOURCE Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (CUPE)

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