Horizon Health CEO commits to disclosing infection rates

The Horizon Health Network will begin posting infection rates on its website in April or May, according to the authority's president and chief executive officer.

Department of Health will require standardized reporting of infection rates by RHAs

The Horizon Health Network will begin posting infection rates on its website in April or May, according to the authority’s president and chief executive officer.

John McGarry, the new head of the province’s largest health authority, told the Standing Committee on Crown Corporations on Friday that Horizon will begin releasing data on infections, such as C. difficile and MRSA, this spring.

"It’s a fact that hospitals in New Brunswick have not reported those infection rates and other issues … There are probably eight or 10 rates that are regularly reported in all hospitals in some provinces and I think we need to get to that point," McGarry told the committee.

John McGarry, the president of the Horizon Health Network, said some infection rates will be made public. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

"We at Horizon are going to start putting that on our website on a regular basis for these major metrics for the public’s benefit."

McGarry’s comments come less than a week after the Horizon Health Network and Vitalité Health Network rejected a Right to Information Act request by CBC News for C. difficile and MRSA statistics.

McGarry said he wants to show his board of directors the reporting plan at a meeting in April and then the data would be posted.

The Georges-L-Dumont University Hospital underwent a thorough cleaning in January following a spike in C. difficile infections. The severity of the increase in C. difficile cases at the Moncton hospital is unknown because the health authority will not disclose the infection statistics.

Dr. Édouard Hendriks, Horizon’s vice-president of medical, academic and research services, said he was not aware of any "major" problems of C. difficile at any Horizon facilities. He said that is the same for other health infections.

"To my knowledge, I don’t think in New Brunswick, we had at least in the last years, major concerns about [methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus] and [Vancomycin-resistant Enterococci] anywhere in the province," he said.

"Not to say it doesn’t exist, it exists everywhere, but not at a level where we are concerned."

The Department of Health says it will make numbers available to the public beginning this fall.

"The current system for reporting C. difficile varies by health authority and by hospital which does not allow for public health to receive a clear picture of the number of cases or provide this information to the public," health department official Jennifer Graham said in a statement on Thursday.

"Public health is currently working with regional health authorities to standardize the reporting process for C. difficile and provide clarification to guidelines around what to report, when to report, counting cases and case classification," Graham said.

"This new standardized process will be in effect on April 1 for both regional health authorities. In addition, this fall, public health intends to provide information regarding the number of C. difficile cases on its website."

The health authorities have said releasing the information would violate patient privacy, but an Ontario emergency room doctor says there's no need to release names.

Dr. Brian Goldman contends there is no reason why New Brunswick’s two regional health authorities should be blocking the public access to the number of cases of C. difficile and MRSA in provincial hospitals.

Goldman said Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital, where he works, keeps a monthly tally of cases of C. difficile available on its website.

Goldman said being open and demonstrating that rates are low is reassuring to patients.