British Columbia

C. difficile deaths claim disputed by B.C. officials

The Fraser Health Authority is disputing the claim by a group of doctors at Burnaby General Hospital that 84 patients have died in the past 30 months from C. difficile infections.

Fraser Health Authority says report of 84 deaths incorrect

C. difficile dispute


9 years ago
Fraser Health is downplaying doctors' concerns about C. difficile at Burnaby Hospital 1:45

 The Fraser Health Authority says it is already working on a plan to control the spread of C. difficile at Burnaby Hospital and is disputing claims about the number of patients have died from the bacteria in recent years.

The concerns were first raised in a letter by eight senior doctors at the hospital that was released in the legislature by the NDP during question period on Wednesday.

In the letter the doctors claimed the 84 people had died at the hospital in the past two and a half years as a result of infections from the superbug – a rate two or three times the national average.

But in a written response issued on Thursday, the Fraser Health Authority said the claims were incorrect.

"While 84 patients who had C. difficile infection may have died over that time period, it does not mean that CDI was the cause of death," said the statement

"In 2010-2011 there were 13 cases at Burnaby Hospital where C. difficile infection was believed to be a contributing factor in the cause of death."

"Of these 13 cases, eight patients were over the age 80 and all cases had other complicating medical conditions."

However the Health Authority did say that despite taking measure to crack down on the spread of infections, the rate of infection at the hospital remains well above the national bench mark of six cases per 10,000 patient days.

"The CDI rate at Burnaby Hospital has decreased from 27 cases per 10,000 patient days in 2008-2009 to 16.6 cases per 10,000 patient days in 2011-2012 YTD – a 40% reduction; however the rate continues to be above the Canadian benchmark rate."

The statement said the age of the hospital was partly to blame because there were fewer isolation rooms, hand-washing sinks, and older human waste disposal systems.

But the Health Authority also pointed to doctors themselves as a vector for the spread of the deadly infections.

"Physicians can and must also play their part in improving hand hygiene compliance and reducing antibiotic use."

According to Fraser Health Clostridium difficile infection is one of the most commonly acquired infections in hospitals throughout the world. It is occurs when antibiotics kill good bowel bacteria and allow the clostridium difficile bacteria to grow.

In severe cases, surgery may be needed, and in extreme cases it may cause death. The main symptoms of are watery diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain or tenderness.