New Brunswick hospitals are becoming more transparent when it comes to infection rates.

In the spring, CBC News pushed to get information on hospital infections, such as Clostridium difficile and methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

generic hospital sign

New Brunswick health authorities are more forthcoming about hospital infection rates. (CBC)

After some pushback, the health authorities released the numbers and are now making them available to the public.

C. difficile happens most often in people who have recently had a course of antibiotics in hospital.

Symptoms can range from mild diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the bowel.

The bacteria is transmitted most commonly by contact with contaminated hands, equipment or environments to the mouth.

When CBC News initially asked for the numbers of hospital patients with C. difficile, the hospitals refused.

They later handed over the statistics with a promise to make them public.

Worth collecting data

CBC News couldn't find infection rate information on the Vitalité Health Network's website. On the Horizon Health Network website, there is a link to monthly infections surveillance reports.

The first quarterly report that includes March, April, and May shows 75 cases in New Brunswick for those months.

The numbers aren't concerning, but there's more they need to understand about them, said New Brunswick's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eilish Cleary.

Dr. Eilish Cleary

Hospital infection rates aren't concerning, says Dr. Eilish Cleary, New Brunswick's chief medical officer (CBC)

"Right now we can't easily tease out what is occurring solely within the hospital as compared to what's coming from outside. So, for example, from nursing homes or for transmission in the community, and so that's something we'd like to explore a little bit more," said Cleary.

Dr. Allison McGeer, Director of Infection Control for Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, said, "One of the things I like about how NB has structured this report, is you can actually see the number of patients. Every one of those patients is someone that we didn't want to harm.

"I don't think there is any question that it's worth allocating resources to collect data. If you don't collect data on the burden of hospital acquired infections, you don't know how big a problem they are and you can't reasonably allocate resources to making the problem better."

By making the numbers public, people can see how well prevention strategies are working.