Burnaby Hospital C. diff response 'smacks of a coverup': MLA Corrigan

For Burnaby-Deer Lake MLA Kathy Corrigan the outbreak of C. difficile at Burnaby Hospital in recent years hit close to home.

"I've heard story after story from constituents. I've seen it," said Corrigan. "My mom was in the hospital, she died from C. difficile in that time period at Burnaby Hospital."

And how Fraser Health Authority dealt with an outbreak at the hospital in March 2012 "smacks of coverup," says Corrigan.

The New Democrat MLA was responding to a recent Vancouver Sun article in which documents provided through a freedom of information request show Fraser Health never discussed warning the public about the C. difficile outbreak.

"To me it seems like they were more worried about the spread of the story than they were about the spread of the disease," she said.

The C. difficile crisis was happening during a "very political time" at the hospital when BC Liberal politicians and operatives were accused of using a community planning process looking at the future of the facility as a way to win votes in the provincial election.

If Fraser Health had made the public aware of the outbreak, it could have affected whether people went to that hospital and what precautions they might have taken if they did, she said.

In the end, what brought the crisis to a head was a letter signed by eight doctors telling Fraser Health CEO Nigel Murray that the rates of the highly contagious and antibiotic-resistant bacteria at the hospital were so high and badly managed that it risked becoming the subject of legal action. From 2008 to mid-2011, it said, 84 patients had died as a result. The rates of C. difficile had ranged from two to three times the national and provincial averages at the time.

The letter was leaked to the New Democrats.

But "if that had not been leaked we may never have found out about it," Corrigan said, "and would we have ever addressed the problems at the hospital in any meaningful way if that hadn't come out?"

For its part, Fraser Health says it has managed to reduce the number of C. difficile infections (CDI) in the past two years.

"Our intense effort to reduce CDI has proved successful as the rates at Burnaby Hospital and across Fraser Health have declined significantly over the past two years, from 15.2 per 10,000 patient days in 2011/12 to 8.6 in 2012/13 at Burnaby Hospital," said Dr. Elizabeth Brodkin, executive medical director of  infection prevention and control, in an emailed statement.

"C. difficile will always exist in health care settings; however, Fraser Health is committed to ensuring best practice to reduce the spread within our sites.”

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