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Update on C. difficile Outbreak at St. Catharines General

Posted Jun 12th, 2011

As part of the C. difficile outbreak protocol, the Niagara Health System (NHS) informed the Regional Coroner’s office of the death of a fifth patient yesterday at the St. Catharines General Site associated with the C. difficile outbreak at the site.

“We all recognize the loss the family and friends are experiencing, and we would like to extend our sincere condolences to them,” says Anne Atkinson, Vice President, Patient Services. “This patient had serious health issues and also tested positive for C. difficile. The patient’s death will be reviewed to determine the role C. difficile played or did not play in the death.”

The Regional Coroner is being notified of all deaths of patients with C. difficile until the outbreak is declared over. The Coroner will determine whether to conduct its own medical review on a case-by-case basis. The hospital also conducts a review of every patient death related to the outbreak to determine whether C. difficile was the cause of death, a contributing factor, or unrelated. All of these deaths are also reported to Niagara Region Public Health under provincial legislation.

The NHS is working hand-in-hand with Niagara Region Public Health to ensure all outbreak containment measures are in place and monitored. Containment efforts are working. There were two hospital-associated cases early on in the C. difficile outbreak when it was declared 16 days ago on May 28. There have been no new cases since May 28.

“We appreciate the ongoing support and cooperation of patients and visitors. Compliance with hand washing and other measures is essential to bring the outbreak to conclusion. As well we would like to publicly thank all of our staff and physicians for their hard work and exceptional commitment to patient care and safety,” said Mrs. Atkinson.

As of Sunday, June 12, there are 20 patients with C. difficile hospitalized at the St. Catharines General – 14 of which have hospital associated C. difficile and six of which are community associated. Since the outbreak was declared on May 28, the total number of patient cases of C. difficile associated with the outbreak is 29.

What is C. difficile?

Clostridium difficile (C. diff) causes diarrhea and is one of the most common infections in hospitals and long-term care facilities. People most at risk after exposure are typically of advanced age, and with underlying illnesses such as inflammatory bowel disease or immunodeficiency, who are also taking antibiotics. Antibiotics kill off the “good bacteria” in the bowel and allow the C. difficile to flourish and cause illness.

Are visitors allowed at St. Catharines General?

Visiting hours at the site are temporarily restricted to 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. There are allowances for compassionate reasons.

Visitors are asked not to visit multiple patient rooms when they come to hospital. Please only visit one patient room during any outing to the hospital during the outbreak. A maximum of two visitors are permitted per patient at one time during visiting hours. Visitors should clean their hands upon entering and leaving the hospital, and should not visit the hospital if they are feeling ill. Visitors may be required to wear protective equipment, which includes gowns and gloves, when visiting patients.

Is the Emergency Department open?

The Emergency Department is open, and all regular procedures continue to go ahead as scheduled.

Niagara Health System