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Thousands of Canadians dying from hospital-acquired bugs

By Tom Blackwell, posted at www.nationalpost.com, Jan. 20, 2015

Two hospitals in Toronto and one in Quebec, for instance, announced independently in the late 2000s that they had discovered contaminated sinks were the source of separate, deadly outbreaks of infection.

Some word of the episodes got out through specialized medical journal articles, academic conferences and sporadic news stories. But there is no systematic way of disseminating such information across the system, said Darrell Horn, a former patient-safety investigator for the Winnipeg Region Health Authority.

"You could sit and call every hospital in the country, and ask them when was the last time they cleaned the sink in the (neonatal intensive care unit) and how they cleaned it, and you'd get nothing but blank stares," he said.

Health care is paying much more attention, at least, to the hospital-acquired infection (HAI) problem than it did a decade ago, said Dr. Michael Gardam, infection-control director at Toronto's University Health Network.

While not every surgical infection is preventable, "they can be dramatically minimized", Gardam said.

Some provinces, such as Ontario and British Columbia, require hospitals to report to the government on a few common infections, such as C. difficile, blood infections transmitted by the "central lines" used to access major blood vessels, and pneumonia from ventilator use. Ontario hospitals must report their compliance with tactics designed to prevent surgical infections, though not the infections themselves.

Experts debate whether publicly reporting data actually benefits health care, but a 2012 study found that C. difficile rates in Ontario hospitals dropped by 25 per cent after the province started divulging statistics on the disease.

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