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Dirty profits hit hospitals
THE GOVERNMENT has launched another 'initiative' aimed at improving standards of hospital cleanliness. They were particularly alarmed at the publicity about the MRSA 'superbug' which infected 300,000 people last year in Britain's hospitals and killed 5,000 people.
But the government's 'solutions' concentrate on advice such as telling nurses to wash their hands regularly. They fail to tackle the biggest problem of all - far fewer cleaners are now being employed in the health service.
New research by public service union UNISON shows that only 55,000 cleaners work in NHS hospitals today. In 1984 there were some 100,000 cleaners.
MRSA costs the NHS £1 billion a year as patients who develop cross-infections have to stay in hospital longer. Even Labour's health secretary John Reid can't deny a link between the massive rise in the number of dangerous infections being picked up in hospitals and the huge decrease in the number of cleaning workers.
For over a decade, governments have insisted that cleaning services should be contracted out to private firms, who make their substantial profits by cutting the number of employees and paying the remaining workers as little as possible.
Now while the government bleats about "thinking clean" they insist on trusting private contractors who are only thinking profits and employ overworked staff on lower pay and worse conditions.
The government sees the NHS as a business ripe for cost-cutting measures so Reid rejects UNISON's call for action on contracting out. But if New Labour insist on the health service being run by private contractors, their policies will be seen as bringing death, disease and a colossal waste of resources into the NHS.
In The Socialist 15 January 2005: