Five Ontario hospitals abandon fight against superbug

Some Ontario hospitals are giving up on trying to control the superbug VRE. No doubt the hospitals are responding to the government funding squeeze on hospitals. Below, infection control experts offer a tart warning of the consequences of this policy.

We've been downs a similar road before: past cuts to hospital cleaning (and hospital beds) helped lead to the explosion in superbug infections in recent years. In the period ahead we will see more and more examples of how hospital cuts will affect patient care. 

Local hospitals isolate, others relax about super bug 
Hamilton Spectator 
Fri Sep 7 2012 
Page: A16 
Section: Editorial 
Byline: Allison McGeer, MD, Kevin Katz, MD, Mary Vearncombe, MD, Toronto 

'Big and dumb' VRE not the worry it was: Local hospitals isolate, others relax about super bug (Aug. 30)

As directors of infection prevention programs at Toronto hospitals, we are always happy to see thoughtful discussion of the issues surrounding hospital-acquired infection. We also worry about the risks associated with underestimating the damage and heartbreak that hospital infections cause.

VRE may be big and dumb, but it kills one of every 200 patients it affects. In hospitals that don't control VRE, as many as one-third of patients with acute blood cancers develop VRE bloodstream infections. Allowing this "superbug" to spread in our hospitals harms patients and increases the costs of health care.

It is true that five of 155 hospitals in Ontario have given up on trying to control VRE because their control programs were seen to be expensive and weren't working well. However, residents of Hamilton should be proud of their hospitals' programs. The ongoing success of the Hamilton VRE control program means that we should not be criticizing Hamilton hospitals, but rather asking what they are doing right that some other hospitals could learn from.

Allison McGeer, MD, Kevin Katz, MD, Mary Vearncombe, MD, Toronto

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