New Brunswick

Horizon 'disappointed' hospital cleanliness falls short for many patients

The Horizon Health Network is "disappointed" with the results of a new provincewide survey that shows only about half of hospital patients felt their rooms and bathrooms were "always kept clean."

Only 51.7% of surveyed patients found room and bathroom were 'always kept clean,' N.B. Health Council reports

Only 49.7 per cent of Horizon hospital patients surveyed last year and 55.8 per cent of those at Vitalité hospitals said their room and bathroom were 'always kept clean.'

The Horizon Health Network is "disappointed" with the results of a new provincewide survey of hospital patients that found only about half felt their rooms and bathrooms were "always kept clean."

"We are obviously disappointed that cleanliness has remained consistent with previous surveys as an area for improvement within our hospitals," Margaret Melanson, Horizon's vice-president of quality and patient-centred care, said in an emailed statement.

"We will continue to work on this area, and learn from best practices of partner hospitals that have achieved higher results."

In the 2016 Hospital Patient Care Experience survey, released Tuesday by the New Brunswick Health Council, only 51.7 per cent of the 6,733 respondents reported their room and bathroom were always kept clean — down from 53.2 per cent in 2013 and 59.6 per cent in 2010.

About 30.4 per cent of patients surveyed last year said their room and bathroom were "usually" kept clean during their stay, 13.6 per cent said "sometimes," and 4.3 per cent said "never."

The Horizon Health Network values the information the New Brunswick Health Council survey provides, said Margaret Melanson, vice-president of quality and patient-centred care. (Submitted)
"Aspects of the hospital environment, such as the quality of bathroom and toilet areas, can be highly influential in determining patients' feelings about their hospital experience," the report by the public watchdog states.

"Regular and thorough cleaning" can also prevent patients from picking up infections in hospital, the report says.

Horizon's ​average among its 11 hospitals was 49.7 per cent for patients who felt their rooms and bathrooms were kept clean, while the average for the nine Vitalité hospitals was 55.8 per cent.

Vitalité officials could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Melanson said Horizon values the information the survey provides.

"It helps us to improve how we manage our hospital services," she said.

I don't really think that it is bad as it is reported.- Penny Ericson, patient family advisory committee

"Since 2013 we have seen improvements in key areas such as the overall impression of care received, patient safety and language of choice. We are proud of the results in these areas."

Penny Ericson, a retired nurse and nursing professor who raised concerns about hospital cleanliness in 2013, and now volunteers as co-chair of Horizon's patient family advisory committee, contends cleanliness has actually improved over the past three years, despite the latest patient survey results.

"I don't really think that it is bad as it is reported," she said.

Although Ericson thinks "there are examples that are appalling," she believes the rooms are cleaned to a higher standard than they were before, by "better educated" staff.

In addition, all Horizon facilities are now following the same protocols, and using the same products and equipment, she said.

Penny Ericson, volunteer co-chair of Horizon's patient family advisory committee, believes part of the problem is that patients and the public don't alert staff when they find a bathroom or other area of a hospital isn't cleaned properly. (CBC)
Ericson, who spent a significant amount of time in Fredericton's Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital while her husband, Carl, was being treated before his death in 2013, had said in a report to Horizon, the Department of Health and the New Brunswick Nurses Union that she was shocked at the lack of proper cleaning in the hospital's hallways, bathrooms and cafeterias.

At the time, she blamed government cuts and a lack of experienced cleaning supervisors.

But Ericson believes part of the problem is that bathrooms are often shared by up to four patients.

"Many times these bathrooms are small, it's awkward to get walkers and wheelchairs in, accidents happen and many times, if the person is there by themselves, they don't know it, they can't see it, they don't have their glasses on or whatever, so they don't tell anybody," she said.

"And then the next person who comes in to use it finds that it's not clean and they're unhappy and they don't tell anybody, except their family."

If a patient or visitor feels a bathroom or anything else in the hospital isn't clean, Ericson urges them to report it to a ward clerk, a nurse manager, or even a security person.

"They need to speak up because we can't clean something if we don't know it's dirty," she said.

Ericson is also calling for a "team" approach among cleaning staff.

"If someone does report something, whether it's in their job description or not, if it's possible to clean something … help each other out and make sure these things are addressed quickly and efficiently."

The survey was sent to 14,504 patients who were discharged after spending at least one night in an acute care hospital between December 2015 and March 2016. The survey was answered by 6,733 patients, or 46 per cent.