Nova Scotia

N.S. posts C. difficile rates from health districts

The province has collected data from all health authorities on handwashing and the bacterial infection Clostridium difficile and has made the information available online, allowing Nova Scotians to keep tabs on how often health-care workers are washing their hands to prevent infections.

Handwashing numbers can also be found on new online tracking system

Nova Scotians can now track handwashing rates at all the health authorities. (CBC)

The province has collected data from all health authorities on handwashing and the bacterial infection Clostridium difficile and has made the information available online, allowing Nova Scotians to keep tabs on how often health-care workers are washing their hands to prevent infections.

Judy Farcey, who went to the hospital with a severe C. difficile infection two years ago, said it's a step in the right direction.

"When you go to the hospital, you're supposed to feel you're going to get better, not get sick," she said.

She was concerned about how often health-care workers washed their hands after touching her — and before touching other patients.

"I think it's very good because it will increase everybody's awareness," said Tammy MacDonald, the health services manager of infection control and prevention for the Capital District Health Authority.

The provincial rate for C. difficile is 3.17 cases for every 10,000 patient days. That's better than the national standard, but Nova Scotia's health minister wants to see it improve.

"I'd love to see 100 per cent compliance with handwashing and a zero per cent rate for C. difficile rates," said Dave Wilson.

The information available on the province's website is only for January 2013 to March 2013, although several of the district health authorities told CBC News that they have been collecting information independently longer than that. 

Making progress

At South West Health, which reported the lowest rates of C. difficile of all the health authorities, officials said an aggressive handwashing campaign in recent years has helped staff become more aware of the problem.

Fraser Mooney, a spokesman for South West Health, said the health authority's three hospitals have done well in cleaning the rooms and equipment for patients. 

"Our most recent accreditation survey through Accreditation Canada noted in South West Health, the cleanliness of our hospitals," he said.

"They said our hospitals were very clean and that's the work of our environmental services staff and infection control staff to make sure that everything is clean sterilized. That really plays a big role in preventing the spread of infectious diseases."

However, Mooney noted that a single outbreak of C. difficile could change South West's low rate dramatically. 

At the IWK Health Centre in Halifax there were five cases of C. difficile between January 2013 and March 2013, said Joanne Langley, the medical director of the infection control program at the children's hospital.

Langley cautioned against direct comparisons between the health authorities. 

"We have the patients who have cancer, kidney transplants, in intensive care, having the highest risk surgeries, whereas out in the other districts, they have a more primary care and secondary care population," she said.

"That's one of the reasons why you can't compare across districts, because the adults and children you have in Capital Health District are the most severely ill. They're at risk for all these infections."

With files from Shaina Luck

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