Reporter's award shows how important public access to hospital information is

Derek Spalding of the Nanaimo Daily News has won the local reporting award at the National Newspaper Awards for his investigation into the spread of Clostridium difficile at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. 

Repeated freedom-of-information requests finally revealed that the Vancouver Island Health Authority intentionally withheld information in order to downplay the bad news about C. difficile to the public.  

The Nanaimo Daily News reported that according to documents it obtained a deadly 11-month outbreak of Clostridium difficile at the hospital in 2008 was largely blamed on inadequate housekeeping. Subsequently, the Island Authority tried to end its contract with the private corporation that cleans the hospital (without success -- click here for more). 

The story shows how important public access to hospital information is.  OCHU/CUPE has been fighting for access to hospital superbug information for years, with some, limited success: most notably helping to win public reports on hospital superbug rates in 2008.   

But this story makes one wonder about how reliable those reports are.  

More progress, perhaps, would have come when the Ontario government promised this past fall to make hospitals subject to freedom of information requests starting in 2012.  But a recent government (and hospital) backed amendment to the law will limit the access won.    

In any case, congratulations to Mr. Spalding for the award and for pushing back the veil of secrecy.  We definitely need it here.  

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