Nova Scotia

C. difficile protocols not followed: patient's family

A North Sydney man whose mother caught C. difficile says hospital workers continue to break infection control protocols.

A North Sydney man whose mother caught C. difficile says hospital workers continue to break infection control protocols.

Brian Young's mother was admitted to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital eight weeks ago after suffering a stroke. Just over a week ago, the family was told she had C. difficile, a bacterial infection linked to four deaths in the area.

Young said his 88-year-old mother had been suffering from diarrhea, a symptom of C. difficile, for three weeks.

"We were floored," he told CBC News. "You heard so much about C. diff in the hospitals, how now it was under control … Well, no, it's not."

Young said his family saw hospital staff use antibacterial gels instead of soap and a doctor enter the room of a C. difficile patient without being fully gowned.

The family notified hospital administrators.

"We take this very seriously. If there is a concern, then we follow up, and there are a number of steps in that follow-up," said Greg Boone, spokesman for the Cape Breton District Health Authority.

Earlier this year, the health authority brought in public health nurses to educate hospital staff on the ways to keep infections from spreading, such as wearing new gloves for each room.

However, some hospital workers in Sydney and Glace Bay were still not following the rules, and the health authority had to issue warning letters.

Young said the fact that his mother was infected with C. difficile makes a bad situation even worse.

"She needs [stroke rehabilitation] physiotherapy and she's not getting a lot of that right now," he said.

Young said his mother was very active and described her as "88 going on 68." He said the assessment following her stroke was brief and that a promised follow-up never took place.

Even if she is reassessed, he said, she cannot be sent to another facility because she has C. difficile.

Boone said he cannot comment on the family's claim because he's not permitted to discuss individual cases. But he said all stroke patients are thoroughly assessed to determine their potential for rehabilitation.

Boone said the health district is still seeing about six new cases of C. difficile a month, compared to an average of three before the outbreak.

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