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'Superbug' risk low at Chilliwack hospital: FHA

There's a low risk of infection by the C. difficile "superbug" at Chilliwack General Hospital, says a spokesman for the Fraser Health Authority.

While the health authority has come under fire because of patient deaths reportedly caused by C. difficile infection (CDI) in other hospitals, FHA spokesman said Roy Thorpe-Dorward said the Chilliwack hospital is "one of the better sites" in the health region.

A report by the FHA's infection control team found only 1.3 cases of CDI per 10,000 patient days to date at the Chilliwack hospital — compared to 16.6 cases per 10,000 patient days at Burnaby hospital, which is at the centre of the controversy.

The Canadian benchmark for CDI incidents in hospitals is six cases per 10,000 patient days.

Numbers in the published report vary because a different base line of patient days and a different reporting period were used," Thorpe-Dorward said.

But he noted the number of CDI incidents at both hospitals are trending downward.

The CDI situation at the Burnaby hospital came to light when a letter signed by eight doctors was released to the media by BC New Democrats.

The letter claimed 84 patients had died between 2009-2011 after CDI outbreaks at the hospital.

But FHA officials said while those patients may have died with some C. difficile infection, it could not be proved medically that CDI caused the death.

The FHA is implementing 10 recommendations made in a CDI review by Dr. Michael Gardem, who concluded the health authority's infection prevention and control programs are underresourced.

"My impression ... was that (infection control staff) are clearly dedicated to their roles, but also overwhelmed," he said in the report.

Thorpe-Dorward said when he asked the infection control team at CGH how they kept the number of CDI cases low, they replied:

- good hand hygiene compliance by staff and physicians;

- patients cleaning hands after toileting and before eating;

- cleaning shared medical equipment;

- dedicating bedside commodes to one patient;

- quality assurance tests for housekeepers;

- early identification of possible CDI cases;

- isolation of possible CDI cases to contain infection.

Health people are not at risk to C. difficile infection, according to a Health Canada fact sheet, but the elderly, patients with chronic conditions and those taking antibiotics are at greater risk.

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