Thursday, July 7, 2011

C. difficile in Niagara

Micrograph of a colonic pseudomembrane in pseu...Image via Wikipedia

I'm ashamed of myself for not paying closer attention when the wheels first started to fall off the Niagara Health Care System.

For years I've been reading letters to the editor in the St. Catharines Standard about how dirty the St. Catharines General Hospital is.

To tell you the truth, some of the letters were so unbelievable they caused me to think the writers were exaggerating.

I remember one letter in particular that described blood being left on the floor of a patient's room for days before the overworked cleaning staff got around to mopping it up.

Now I have to accept the fact that those letters might have been true - because Niagara is in the midst of a frightening C. difficile outbreak even though

a)  C. difficile isn't contagious. It is caused by fecal matter being transferred from one person or surface to another.   

 b) a person can get it only if antibiotics he/she is taking have killed off another kind of bacteria in his/her intestines.


It doesn't sound as if it should be a great problem.
But it has killed at least 17 people in area hospitals since the end of May and many more are sick.

The situation reminds me of the Listeria outbreak in Ontario in 2008. 

That deadly bacteria was hiding so deep inside the meat cutting machines at Maple Leaf Foods it was almost impossible for the company to find it.

I wonder if C difficile is like Listeria, left unchecked for so long, it now lurks in dark, hidden  places, impossible to find and remove even with the most stringent of cleaning programmes.

I don't know the answer to that but I do know that I'll agree to more cut backs

in health care as long as they only involve the folks at the top.

Then there will at least be some justice for the dying and the dead.

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