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Criticism accompanies VIHA's Cowichan cleaning deal renewal

Signs are posted to help remind staff and visitors cleanliness is essential at Cowichan District Hospital to stop the spread of infection. -
Signs are posted to help remind staff and visitors cleanliness is essential at Cowichan District Hospital to stop the spread of infection.
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A renewed housekeeping contract with a private firm  has some officials

worried about cleanliness at Cowichan District Hospital and Cairnsmore Place.

But Vancouver Island Health Authority brass dismissed those concerns about the $10.6-million annual deal signed for five years with Crothall Services Canada covering VIHA facilities in Cowichan, Nanaimo and Victoria.

VIHA officials cited continued audits and surveys, increased staffing and training, plus enhanced monitoring and advanced cleaning techniques as effective ways of assuring quality control.

CDH’s top doc was satisfied with the deal, despite outbreaks of Norwalk viruses at CDH in recent years.

“Housekeeping doesn’t fall in my bailiwick but I’m not aware of any (ongoing) housekeeping problems at CDH,” said Dr. Len Roy.

VIHA aims to keep it that way in the bargain with Crothall, owned by Compass Group Canada.

VIHA’s Murray Hutchison said VIHA examined bids by six firms but stuck with Crothall.

“We enhanced what we had.”

The deal bumps CDH’s Health Employee Union cleaning staff to 40.2 full-time equivalent positions from the current 31.5 FTEs.

That’s good news to the HEU’s Mike Old — with one catch.

“Our strong preference would be for VIHA to bring housekeeping back in-house for better coordination.

“But we’re happy our workers aren’t facing layoffs as a result of flipping this contract.”

A cash crunch is why VIHA is contracting out housekeeping.

“We outsourced (cleaning) seven or eight years ago and at this point we don’t have the resources to bring it back in-house,” Hutchison said.

But given outbreaks of nasty bugs at CDH in recent years — outbreaks VIHA maintains were not tied to housekeeping — MLA Bill Routley called the renewed deal with Crothall “outrageous, because they’re rewarding bad behaviour.”

Hutchison explained cleaning standards have changed, citing CDH’s new quick-response team to attack outbreaks and do deeper cleaning continuously.

“There’s been review of what happened then, and housekeeping works closely with infection control — cleaning has been enhanced at all of our sites, and contracts reflect those discussions.”

Still, Routley and Old preferred in-house cleaning staff.

“Why pay for the profits for a third party when you can reinvest those profits into the service?” asked Old.

But Hutchison cited recent  housekeeping audits by Westech, done between April 1, 2010 and March 31, 2011, with VIHA scoring the highest in B.C.

VIHA’s Shannon Marshall noted the international benchmark target is 85 percent.

CDH notched 92.92 per cent, while Cairnsmore earned 86.36 per cent, Marshall said.

All VIHA sites are also monitored and audited by contract managers.

“As part of our contract agreement with Crothall, we conduct joint VIHA/Crothall quarterly audits, every three months to four times a year,” she said.

“All of our larger sites are audited at least monthly.”

The contract includes an option for a five-year extension by VIHA.

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