Number of C. difficile cases to become clearer
Published Tuesday, September 16, 2008 8:28AM EDT
GODERICH, Ont. - Ontario Health Minister David Caplan says a clearer picture of C. difficile infections will emerge by month's end when hospitals report their data to the province.
Caplan was responding to a Hamilton Spectator report that Ontario's death rate from C. difficile jumped 50 per cent over a two-year period.
Ontario has been criticized for not acting as quickly as Quebec to force hospitals to track deaths from C. difficile, but Caplan says it was a matter of approach.
He says Quebec gathered the data first and then put the resources into place to combat infectious diseases, while Ontario put the resources into place and is now capturing the data.
The Spectator investigation found that Ontario's death rate from C. difficile shot to 6.3 per cent in 2007 from 4.2 per cent in 2005.
The rise in the death rate for patients infected in hospitals occurred amid a series of C. difficile outbreaks that have catapulted the infection into a major public issue.
"Samples extrapolated over a larger population (are) not really as strong an indication of what's actually happening," Caplan said at Liberal caucus retreat in southwestern Ontario.
"That's why at the end of this month we will have the actual figures from Ontario hospitals (and) know where we stand."
The numbers reported by the Spectator mark the first time Ontario's fatality rate has surpassed that of Quebec, where the bug has killed at least 2,000 people since 2002.
The death rate in Quebec plunged dramatically in 2007, falling to 5.5 per cent from 14.9 per cent in 2005.
Experts attribute the decline to an aggressive infection control strategy that sent teams of professionals into hospitals to ensure proper cleaning, isolation and antibiotic management.
"The important thing to remember is, when Quebec brought this in they almost immediately saw the number of cases go down. That's what we'll be looking for," Caplan said.
"I think we're going to achieve much the same kind of protections as they have seen in Quebec."