Nova Scotia

Handling of C. difficile outbreak criticized

The Public Health Agency of Canada has criticized some of the Cape Breton District Health Authority's practices in handling the Clostridium difficile outbreak earlier this year.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has criticized some of the Cape Breton District Health Authority's practices in handling the Clostridium difficile outbreak earlier this year.

Between January and May of this year, the health authority reported 49 cases of C. difficile, which is the most frequent cause of infectious diarrhea in Canadian hospitals.

Of those 49 patients, 11 people died, and the Public Health Agency of Canada said four of those deaths were the direct result of the infection they received while they were in the hospital.

John Malcom, the CEO of the Cape Breton District Health Authority, made a public apology about the way the health authority dealt with the outbreak.

"We want to express our condolences and our apology. We acknowledge that we let people down during this process," he said Friday.

"It's an out and out mistake on our part. Our policies call for those people to be put into a private room, to be admitted to a private room, and it didn't happen."

The report by the Public Health Agency of Canada highlighted a case where a patient infected with C. difficile was put in a three-patient room.

Another patient in that room then became infected.

The report cited several rooms at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital and the Glace Bay Hospital that appeared to have been contaminated because many of the people who became infected, stayed in the rooms.

"We needed a special product to be able to kill the spores," said Malcom.

"We thought we had properly cleaned it. The spores were still there. There was a risk of transmission."

The report also blamed transfers of patients between units and facilities for spreading the infection and criticized the health authority for declaring the outbreak over too soon.

Malcom said changes have been made since then and administrators now look at C. difficile rates once a week.

He said cleaning practices have improved and a new program reduces the prescribing of antibiotics because they weaken resistance to the infection.

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