Via The Vancouver Sun: No thought given to warning public at the height of 2012 C. difficile crisis at Burnaby Hospital. Excerpt:
As Fraser Health struggled to suppress an alarming C. difficile outbreak in Burnaby Hospital, there was never a discussion about warning the public, documents reveal.
Nearly 1,900 pages of reports and communications among health board and provincial government employees — obtained by The Sun through a freedom of information request — reveal how officials responded to the crisis in March 2012.
Emails flew internally about curbing the hospital’s rate of infections with the C. diff. bacteria — said then to be two to three times the national average — but there was no mention of steering patients away from the troubled hospital.
The FOI documents were provided to The Sun this month, around the same time as B.C.’s Privacy and Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham released a report saying government agencies have a duty to inform the public when their health and safety is at risk.
“Only a small number of public bodies are making disclosures under (the Freedom of Information Act) about a risk of significant harm to the environment or to the health or safety of the public,” Denham wrote in her Dec. 2 report. “Public bodies do not fully understand their obligations under (the act) and are not always taking appropriate measures to ensure they meet these obligations.”
In an interview last week, a Fraser Health official said lessons have been learned since March 2012 and that if a C. difficile outbreak happens again, information would be shared publicly.
“I think perhaps the learnings from March 2012 is just the importance of transparent communication,” said Dr. Elizabeth Brodkin, Fraser Health’s executive medical director of infection control and prevention.
In early 2012, eight senior doctors at Burnaby Hospital wrote a letter to Fraser Health complaining that C. difficile infection rates were consistently too high at Burnaby Hospital and that 84 people who became infected there had died between 2009 and 2011.
The FOI documents reveal conditions were so unsanitary at the hospital during that time that disgusting photos taken in patients’ rooms were turned into warning posters for the staff.
I posted on this problem back in early 2012.