Call to acknowledge the role of hospital cleaning as superbug cases climb

24th of June 2024

Call to acknowledge the role of hospital cleaning as superbug cases climb

Superbug cases are rising across Canada, according to experts. And the cleaning of contaminated surfaces in hospitals is crucial if patients are to be protected from harm.

Canadian data on infection rates is sparse but the Canadian Nosocomial Surveillance Program – which pools information from 88 hospitals – reveals increases in cases of MRSA and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus across the country between 2017 and 2021.

Experts say more rigorous attention to cleaning protocols could keep outbreaks under control, while some have criticised a growing trend to outsource the function of cleaning. Retired infectious diseases physician from Ontario Dr Dick Zoutman says privatising hospital cleaning services could result in reduced numbers of employees carrying out the same work but with fewer resources.

“That just doesn’t work in this setting, and it is hazardous to the quality of the cleaning and hazardous to patient care,” he said.

Infectious diseases specialist at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto Dr Michael Gardam is concerned that if housekeeping staff feel rushed, some tasks will be missed. “When speed is pitted against infection control the two often don’t get along very well,” he said.

According to Gardam, the housekeeping staff are an important part of the team required to perform surgery safely. However, they are often seen as an afterthought.

And he adds that while it seems likely that fewer microbes in the environment would result in fewer infections, it can be a challenge to find “iron-clad research” about the return on investment that housekeeping provides.


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