"Wash your hands."It's a phrase Niagara Health System officials have repeated like a mantra since the C. difficile outbreak began in May. It's the single most important thing anyone can do, they say, to contain the spread of the potentially lethal bacteria.
But on Friday — after she reported three more outbreak patients had died — interim CEO Sue Matthews said nurses are finding some visitors are becoming increasingly agitated and refuse to wash to their hands.
"As a nurse, I can tell you that dealing with aggressive people is a daily part of the job. You have a greater chance of being assaulted if you are a nurse than if you are a cop," Matthews said.
"People are refusing to wash their hands when asked by nurses, and we have to tell them now that if they refuse, we will call security and they will escort them out of the building."
No nurses have been physically assaulted, Matthews said, but some have dealt with verbal abuse from people flatly refusing to wash their hands. By not doing so, these visitors risk spreading C. difficile in the hospital or bringing it home with them.
While Matthews was puzzled about why visitors would take the risk of not washing their hands, she also had to report three more C. difficile patients have died, bringing the total number of C. difficile patients who have died since the first outbreak was declared May 28 to 21.
Of the three most recent deaths, two were from the St. Catharines General Hospital. The third was a patient at the Niagara-on-the-Lake hospital. Matthews said although that facility is not in outbreak and has only one other C. difficile patient, the death was reported in the interests of transparency.
"We have heard from the media and the public that they want this kind of information," she said, referring to criticism from Niagara Falls politicians who attacked the NHS for not reporting C. difficile deaths prior to the outbreak being declared at the Niagara Falls hospital June 23.
Twelve of the C. diff deaths occurred in St. Catharines. Of the 21, 20 were outbreak patients who contracted the illness in hospital. The other was a community-acquired infection.
Matthews also said an epidemiologist from the Public Health Agency of Canada will spend the next three weeks in Niagara examining the NHS outbreak data. The doctor will look at how the health system collects and uses information and might offer recommendations on how to improve it to better see developing trends in the hospital and infection control measures.
Matthews said she hopes the epidemiologist might be able to shed some light on the origins of the outbreak. According to Ministry of Health and Long Term Care data prior to the end of May, St. Catharines General had a C. difficile infection rate that was the same as other Ontario hospitals of similar size.
That changed drastically with the outbreak.
"So we are hoping the epidemiologist can help us understand what happened," Matthews said.
Outbreaks at the Greater Niagara General Hospital and the Welland hospital were declared June 23.
On Thursday, the Hotel Dieu Shaver Rehabilitation Centre in St. Catharines, which receives patients from all three NHS hospitals, also declared a C. difficile outbreak. No patients have died at the rehab centre and Dieu Shaver officials said Friday its outpatient services remain open for its patients".
Thankfully, though, Lafleche didn't bother to mention or provide any comments from any Liberal health-monopolists for this story; naturally, St.Catharines' own Liberal MPP Jim Bradley was no-where to be found.
After all, what's Good Ole Jimmy gots ta do wid any o' dis stuff, eh??