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Hospital infections down in Metro Vancouver

Last Updated Jul 1, 2018 at 12:28 pm PDT

(File Photo)

A new report finds patients are less likely than ever to catch a C. difficile infection during their hospital stay in BC

Series of new policies, strategies, cleaning protocols credited for decline in BC hospital-related C. difficile cases

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Patients are less likely than ever to catch a Clostridium difficile infection during their hospital stay in BC according to a new report.

The study published this week in the Canadian Medical Association Journal shows western provinces, including B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba had a 45 per cent drop in hospital-associated C. difficile infections, a recurring bacterial infection of the colon, between 2009 and 2015. Canada had an average drop of 36 per cent over the same period.

“It’s been very gratifying to see this unfold,” said Elizabeth Brodkin the medical director for infections control with Fraser Health Region. “It really speaks to the incredible hard work that was done by all of the team to bring those rates down to where they are now.”

The region wasn’t included in the study, but also saw a 120 per cent drop in cases since 2009, down from a peak of 13.5 cases per 10,000 patient days to an all-time annual low of 3.4 cases last year.

Brodkin credits the steep decline to a series of new policies, procedures and innovative strategies including doubling their team in 2012 to provide more physician support, new cleaning protocols, reviewing every outbreak and reporting rates four times a year.

“I think there was a gradual understanding that it’s unacceptable for patients to come into a hospital site and get a health care-associated infection,” she said. “No one thing is going to make C. difficile go away. You have to think about it as a multi-factorial problem and you have to tackle each of those problems individually.”

It also included getting the region and front line staff to realize that everyone in a facility contributes to the problem and the solution. This included health professionals over prescribing broad spectrum antibiotics, which wiped out both bad and good bacteria, allowing C. difficile to grow.

Brodkin encourages patients to refuse broad spectrum antibiotics unless they are medically necessary, and to opt for a more targeted medication.

Other hospitals decreased their cases of C. difficile without increasing staff, including Vancouver Coastal Health.

“One of the struggles in health care is people are over worked. There’s no new staffing or additional resources. This is where we had to get innovative,” said Titus Wong, director of infection prevention control for VCH.

Like Fraser Health, the region installed more anti-bacterial surfaces and uses a UV germicidal irradiation robot to kill bacteria and spores with UV light.

Vancouver also introduced a new canine team with C. difficile sniffing dogs.

C. difficile is the most common infectious cause of diarrhea in hospitalized patients in developed countries, leading to severe illness and in some cases death. The microbe creates difficult-to-eradicate spores, which can contaminate surfaces in hospital rooms and rapidly spread the infection.

With files from the Canadian Press