C. difficile alarm sounded by MDs at Burnaby hospital

Doctors at Burnaby General Hospital are sounding the alarm over the high rate of C. difficile infection at the facility, which has killed at least 84 patients there since 2008.

Doctors say bacteria has killed 84 patients at Burnaby General since 2008

Eight senior doctors are warning of the high number of C. difficile bacterial infections at Burnaby General Hospital.

In a letter to the CEO of the Fraser Health Authority, the doctors say the level of the infection is a serious hazard to patients, noting 84 people have died as a result in the past two and half years

Those rates, the doctors say, are two to three times the national and provincial averages.

C. difficile is a debilitating and potentially fatal bacterial infection in the bowel, often caught by elderly or frail patients while they are in hospital.

The letter, written Jan. 9 by eight doctors at Burnaby General, came to light Wednesday in a stormy question period session in the B.C. legislature, where it was used by the Opposition New Democrats to hammer the provincial government.

"Over the past two years the hospital has recorded 473 cases of patients suffering severe complications stemming from C. difficile, and 84 of those cases involved the death of the patient," said Opposition Leader Adrian Dix.

Dix urged provincial Health Minister Mike de Jong to have the B.C. Centre for Disease Control do a review of infection control standards at the hospital.

De Jong did not commit to making the request, but said the government is taking the problem seriously and tracking the infection rate at the hospital.

The Burnaby site is being upgraded and changes are being made that would help control the spread of infections, de Jong. said.

The Fraser Health Authority released a letter Wednesday dated Jan. 23 that it had sent to the doctors in response to their concerns.

The letter acknowledged the C. difficile problem at the hospital but said the health authority had been "making significant strides to reduce the incidence" of the infection.

In January 2011, CBC News reported about a Burnaby General Hospital doctor who said she wanted to provide a simple, experimental treatment for C. difficile called fecal transplant, but had been turned down by the Fraser Health Authority.