Wednesday, July 2, 2008

An Ombudsman 'C. diff' investigation would be kryptonite for McGuinty's Liberals

The St. Catharines Standard on June 27, 2008 reported in: “C. Difficile at Hamilton hospital spreads to six cardiac patients”:

“An outbreak of C. difficile at Hamilton General Hospital continues to spread.
The outbreak, which hospital infection- control staff have said started with a patient who was transferred to the hospital from Welland on June 16, has spread to six patients in a cardiac surgical unit at the Hamilton hospital, according to an update posted on the Hamilton Health Sciences website.
Two days earlier, there were only four patients at the hospital with confirmed cases of C. difficile.
The hospital has closed the cardiac surgical unit to new admissions, and is postponing non-urgent surgeries as a result of the outbreak.
Meanwhile, visits to the surgical unit as well as the intensive care unit are being severely restricted.”

What’s neighbouring Liberal MPP, and cabinet minister, Jim Bradley from St. Catharines, doing about this? What problems are occurring at the Welland hospital which impact operations in Hamilton?

(Jim Bradley hasn’t bothered to even reply to this letter, see: Medicare's secretive death rates and Liberal unaccountability, which I sent to him on Jan.7, 2008 regarding questions about Welland’s hospital, which is part of the Niagara Health System (NHS).

Neither has Jim Bradley bothered to reply to this letter, see: Time to investigate Liberal health-care system: Stale Smitherman should resign, sent to him on Jun.18, 2008.)

Then on June 30, 2008, the Brantford Expositor reported this in a story titled “Seven patients fighting infection, Hamilton hospital reports more cases of C. difficile”:

“Two more heart patients are fighting C. difficile infections at Hamilton General Hospital.
That brings to seven the number of confirmed cases since an outbreak began in the intensive care cardiac unit two weeks ago.
But Hamilton Health Sciences spokeswoman Carly Black says four of the post-surgery patients improved and have been discharged.
Black says the three remaining patients are in stable condition.
The outbreak started June 16 with a patient who was transferred to the hospital from Welland. Within days, the infection had spread to five other patients on the ward.
"It appears to be under control, which we are very happy about," Black said Sunday.
Clostridium difficile is one of the most common infections found in hospitals and long-term care facilities.
The bacteria are found in feces and can be carried without symptoms by up to 46 per cent of hospitalized adults.
The risk of getting an infection rises for the elderly and patients who are weak or taking antibiotics.
Weakened patients can develop severe complications and at least 264 deaths have been attributed to C. difficile infections at seven hospitals in Ontario since 2006.”

As we can see, in several days, the reports increased from four to six to seven C. diff infections. Were there more that went unreported, or were simply disregarded and attributed to other causes? How will we ever know?

What have Bradley’s Liberals done to find out how this outbreak could have been prevented? Why are we seeing further outbreaks of C. diff?

Liberal premier McGuinty stonewalled so as to not allow the ombudsman to investigate the Liberal majority government's role since 2006 in the C. diff outbreak. McGuinty simply gave former health minister Smitherman a promotion to another portfolio, and pretended all is well.

Yet, since the new health minister, David Caplan, took over on Jun. 20, 2008, we're seeing more patients are being infected.

R. Bobak wrote in "Expanding Marin's powers is McGuinty's kryptonite", (St.Catharines Standard, Jul.2, 2008):

"Re: Give ombudsman expanded powers, The Standard, June 20.

   This editorial recommended that Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin be given expanded powers to investigate complaints against the municipal, school and hospital sectors. The editorial asked why then-health minister George Smitherman thought a public inquiry of the C. difficile outbreak -- that has caused 270 deaths during the Liberals' reign -- isn't warranted. The editorial rightly noted: "The province's reluctance to expand Marin's powers makes one wonder what the government is hiding."
   So what did Premier Dalton McGuinty do? The same day this editorial came out, he appointed David Caplan as the new health minister, and shuffled Smitherman to wreak havoc on Ontario's nuclear plants. Caplan immediately toed the secretive government line and refused to allow the ombudsman oversight to investigate the Liberal health system.
   Why is this Liberal government covering up any possibility of an independent examination of its role during the C. diff outbreak in its health-care monopoly? McGuinty's answer is simply to shuffle the responsible minister, Smitherman, out of the hot seat and forget about it.
   Not even mentioned in this editorial was any comment from St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley. Is our local Liberal calling for an end to the secrecy? Is Bradley calling for openness, accountability and oversight into the "comfortable zone of immunity" which is the privilege of government- run monopoly health-care? Why is Bradley so quiet on this issue?
   The MUSH sector is a government's bread-and-butter. It is here that the promises and the pork are doled out without true scrutiny. Having legislated, independent oversight in this sector would be anathema to Liberals; it would be McGuinty's kryptonite.
   If that happened, Bradley might have to actually explain why the hospital in his own riding was found to have the third-highest patient mortality rate in Canada."

How long will Dalton McGuinty, David Caplan, and Jim Bradley continue to force Ontarians to suffer in their no-choice health monopoly, which remains oh-so-conveniently unchecked by competition (by not allowing private health insurance) and by scrutiny (by not allowing Ombudsman oversight)?

How many Ontarians will suffer and die this summer from repercussions caused by the systemic inadequacies of the Liberal's duplicitous health-care monopoly??

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