This article from the Vancouver Sun caught my eye: “Outbreaks show the vital role of hospital cleaners.” The article is written by a union official (which is disclosed at the end of the piece). The author, Bonnie Pearson, is right that housekeeping staff and cleaners play an important role in patient care. They aren't just “mopping up,” they are preventing infections.
Citing outbreaks of C. diff in some Vancouver hospitals, Bonnie is correct in identifying a problem, but it seems her proposed countermeasure is the same as it would be for nearly anything – more union workers.
From the piece:
The BC Centre for Disease Control found that: “There were insufficient numbers of cleaning staff to meet the basic daily needs of the facility and they were not adequately trained in appropriate cleaning procedures for a health care facility. They were not able to meet the increased demand for environmental cleaning that is required to control an outbreak of CDI.”
If you don't have enough staff to get the job done properly (due to underhiring or just having too much waste to deal with during the day) and you haven't trained them well enough, that's a serious problem. It's a management problem. It's also pretty easily fixable (better training, reduce waste and improve processes, and add staff if you have to).
Bonnie agrees with me, as she writes:
Let's get on with the solution. Hire enough people to do the job. Equip them with the training and tools they need to do it. Give them the time required to clean properly.
But, Bonnie then proposes this additional countermeasure:
And let's make them hospital employees again.
And that would likely make them union employees. Bonnie has a clear conflict of interest here (which was, again, disclosed at the end of the story).
I'm not “anti-union” in a way of simplistic labels. But I am “pro” effective problem solving. These problems could be fixed through outsourced staff and making them hospital employees might not necessarily solve the staffing, process, and training issues.
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