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84 patients with C. difficile die -- but no lawsuits (yet)

Eight senior doctors at Burnaby General Hospital have raised concerns about infection control at the hospital, after 473 patients were seriously infected with C. difficile.


Eighty-four of those patients died.


The eight doctors (including 6 department heads) wrote that "current CDAD [C. difficile] infection control management at Burnaby Hospital...is a serious hazard to the patient population. ...Such is the degree of the CDAD problem and the ineffectual response to it, that we believe it could objectively be considered medical negligence."


The doctors made 16 recommendations to resolve the problem, including the immediate institution of enhanced cleaning within hospital units.  The doctors point to a lack of enhanced cleaning of high C.difficile medical units despite a recommendation from the infection control committee following the late-2011 outbreaks.


Hospital Employees Union spokesperson Margi Blamey said a focus needs to be put on resources for cleaning. "Cleaning is integral to infection control. That is about people. You need to staff it adequately."

 NDP Leader Adrian Dix called on the government to order a review of the hospital’s infection control procedures.  “The physicians in this case want a review of the facility housekeeping contract to break the chain of infection and to protect patients.” Mr. Dix told the legislature.


As in Ontario, government officials say not every death was caused by the superbug.  The letter however reportedly cites a recent medical review that found in Ontario hospital outbreaks of C. difficile, 80 per cent of the deaths were directly attributed to the complications of the bug.


The letter suggests the heath authority has not yet faced malpractice suits because the outbreaks were not publicly reported.  "We believe the only reason that such action has not already taken place is the lack of public transparency as to the extent of the problem," they wrote.


Ontario introduced public reports of superbug levels after years of campaigning by OCHU.  OCHU is still fighting to get reports of deaths associated with superbugs.  

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