Both of the hospital units that were shut down in late April at Royal Columbian Hospital due to an outbreak of the highly infectious C. difficile bacteria have now been reopened.
C. difficile causes diarrhea, nausea and dehydration and typically only affects those who are already immune compromised, specifically the elderly or patients who have been on antibiotics for an extended time.
On April 25, the hospital announced that two units - a general medical ward and a seniors/ acute award - were being closed for both incoming and outgoing patients due to an outbreak in both areas.
An outbreak is declared when there are three or more cases in a unit in a seven-day period. To limit the spread of the infection, that unit is then closed to new admissions or transfers out to other medical facilities or discharge to home. Patients are still able to receive visitors, but anyone entering and leaving the ward is asked to take extra precautions with hand hygiene.
Last week, the general medical ward was reopened when it met the infection control guidelines - specifically, no new cases for seven days.
However, Unit 6 South - the acute seniors unit - remained closed until Monday, when it too had not seen any new cases for the required time period.
As of Tuesday morning, it was no longer listed as a current outbreak on the Fraser Health's outbreak information site.
Fraser Health spokesperson Roy Thorpe-Dorward told The Record recently that the hospital is currently undergoing a "super clean." That process includes a twice daily "twice-over" clean down using a strong sporacidal bleach, a process that has been effective in halting C. difficile infections at other hospital facilities.
The deep clean was already scheduled prior to the outbreak and began on April 23; it will con-tinue until May 20, said Thorpe-Dorward.
The same deep cleaning procedure was recently carried out at Burnaby Hospital, which has been plagued with ongoing C. difficile outbreaks over the last two years.
In late February, a letter written by several of Burnaby Hospital's head doctors to the Fraser Health Authority about ongoing infection outbreaks was made public. In it, the doctors said that the hospital had a persistent problem with outbreaks of C. difficile among patients at a rate that topped regional or national averages.
The age of the Burnaby facility has been named as one of the key factors in the difficulty of combating the infection there. In late April, Minister of Health Mike de Jong announced that a master-planning process for the future of Burnaby Hospital was getting underway, with an initial report on the future of the facility expected in the fall.
The Fraser Health Authority recently launched an active outbreak page on its website, to list any current infections at hospitals in the region, which runs from Burnaby to Boston Bar.
To see that page, go to www. fraserhealth.ca and look under Your Stay for Infection Prevention and Control.
Royal Columbian Hospital is a regional trauma centre and can receive patients from around the province.