Nova Scotia

Cape Breton has learned C. difficile lessons

The Cape Breton District Health Authority has taken a number of steps to prevent further deadly outbreaks of C. difficile, CEO John Malcom said Friday at a news conference.
There was an outbreak of the C. difficile bacteria in the Cape Breton District Health Authority. (CBC)

The Cape Breton District Health Authority has taken a number of steps to prevent further deadly outbreaks of C. difficile, CEO John Malcom said Friday at a news conference.

"We've added additional resources to our infection prevention control staff, we've added one and a half nurses and we intend to add one and a half more," Malcom said.

Clostridium difficile are bacteria commonly found in the intestine, but C. difficile infections can be life-threatening for those taking antibiotics or who have pre-existing serious health issues.

The district is also replacing equipment and is looking at renovations, Malcom said.

The C. difficile bacteria can be trapped in damaged hospital tables and sicken patients. ((CBC))
"We've got examples of bedside tables and over bed tables where there's just little nicks in the tables," he said.

"In the past, we wouldn't have said that was a concern, but we now know that's a potential reservoir for C. difficile, and we've got to throw that equipment out or repair it."

The authority has already spent about $500,000 fighting the outbreak which began in March.

Malcom said antibiotic use in hospitals will also be reviewed, and they'll also review how patients are transferred between rooms and facilities.

There were 49 in-hospital cases of C. difficile reported since the beginning of the year in Cape Breton, and the bacteria was implicated in six hospital deaths.

Thirty-two patients were infected at Cape Breton Regional Hospital and 11 patients acquired the bacteria at the Glace Bay Hospital. The remaining cases were at the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital, Harbour View Hospital and at Buchanan Memorial Community Health Centre.

Another 15 cases of C. difficile were acquired in the health district from other sources.

Dr. Shoaib Ansari, the district's infectious disease specialist, said medical personnel were able to work closely with patients' families to contain the outbreak .

"Healthcare staff — including doctors, nurses, lab technicians — and patient family members, when they were going in and going out, they were wearing gowns and gloves," he said.

"We will never be able to get rid of it [C.difficile] completely. There's not a big hospital in North America, or in the world for that matter, where C difficile is not found."

The district is now waiting for a report from the Public Health Agency of Canada on the C. difficile outbreak. That's expected by the end of summer.