A new outbreak of the potentially deadly C. difficile bacteria has infected patients at Royal Columbian Hospital, Fraser Health’s regional trauma centre.
It began Monday, the same day Fraser Health had already scheduled the New Westminster hospital to start a month-long “superclean” as part of a broader campaign to reduce infection rates at vulnerable hospitals.
The same intensive cleaning operation was already performed at Burnaby Hospital, where a serious C. difficile outbreak earlier this year spawned a review and a series of recommendations.
Langley Memorial received the superclean treatment for two weeks in early April, followed by Peace Arch Hospital until April 29.
Surrey Memorial is next in line from April 30 to May 14, said Fraser Health spokesman Roy Thorpe-Dorward.
The Royal Columbian infection initially affected 12 patients in two wards, which are closed to new patients until those infected are symptom-free for a week.
Patients who contracted C. difficile can’t transfer out until they’re symptom-free for 72 hours.
Thorpe-Dorward said four patients still had symptoms as of Thursday and the outbreak could be declared over as soon as Sunday if there are no new cases.
NDP deputy health critic Sue Hammell called for a deeper investigation of cleaning practices at major hospitals, noting Burnaby Hospital failed its cleanliness audit after its deep clean.
Health Minister Mike de Jong said Burnaby’s audit score – 83 per cent compared to a standard of 85 per cent – was not “an abject failure.”
“The people working in those hospitals are doing everything humanly possible to ensure can attend and seek treatment in those hospitals in a clean, safe environment,” he said.
The bacteria is present in most hospitals but an outbreak is only declared when three or more patients have symptoms.
C. difficile infects the intestines and can cause illnesses ranging from diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever and colitis, and in some cases, results in death.
A number of deaths across the health region have been linked to C. difficile infections in recent years.
Fraser Health hospitals accounted for nearly half of the new C. difficile infections in B.C. from April through October of 2011, according to a newly released report from the Provincial Infection Control Network.
During that period, Fraser Health averaged a C. difficile infection rate of 10.6 cases per 10,000 inpatient days, well above the provincial average of 7.4.
The highest rates in the region were recorded at Burnaby Hospital (14.5), Surrey Memorial Hospital (14.5), Eagle Ridge Hospital (13.9), Royal Columbian (12.0) and Langley Memorial Hospital (11.6).
De Jong said the numbers have shown a “steady decline” since 2010.
Fraser Health is now posting information on its website on current outbreaks at: http://www.fraserhealth.ca/your_stay/infection_prevention_and_control/current-active-outbreaks/