Hospital-acquired infections: More to do, Auditor General says

    TORONTO, Sept. 29 /CNW/ - Auditor General Jim McCarter today submitted a
special report to the Speaker of the Ontario Legislature on the prevention and
control of hospital-acquired infections.
    "There are a number of areas where improvements are required," McCarter
said. "While the hospitals we visited and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term
Care have implemented some good initiatives, there's still a lot more to do."
    Hospital-acquired infections are those, such as C. difficile, that a
patient acquires while in the hospital being treated for some other condition
and that can cause illness or even death. In the last few years, one Ontario
hospital reported more than 75 deaths related to C. difficile and others have
experienced significant outbreaks. Contributing factors can range from
improper antibiotic use to inadequate hand hygiene among hospital workers to
improper cleaning of patient rooms.
    Our Office visited three hospitals in Toronto, Ottawa and Windsor to
assess whether they followed best practices for the prevention and control of
hospital-acquired infections. All had made a number of changes to their
operations to guard against such infections. But more needs to be done and we
believe most of our observations apply to the hospital community at large.
    We found that the hospitals we visited didn't always ensure they followed
the appropriate processes for sterilizing surgical instruments and ensuring
rooms occupied by C. difficile patients were adequately cleaned. In addition,
two of the hospitals generally did not track what equipment was used on which
patient, making it difficult to notify patients if equipment is subsequently
found to have been inadequately sterilized.
    "One of the most important measures in the fight against
hospital-acquired infections is prevention - not the development of new
technology or super drugs. Quite simply, a key first step is that all hospital
staff - from doctors to nurses to cleaning personnel - must frequently wash
their hands," McCarter added. But at 10 hospitals that participated in a
provincial awareness campaign, including one that we visited, compliance with
the rules of good hand hygiene ranged from just 40 per cent to 75 per cent.
    This report would normally be included in the Auditor General's 2008
Annual Report, scheduled for release in December. However, it is being
released now because of a motion by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts
requesting that the Auditor General consider tabling the results of this audit
immediately upon completion and because of the significant public interest in
C. difficile.

      For more information and to read the special report, please visit
        Copies of the report are available by calling (416) 327-2381.

For further information:

For further information: Jim McCarter, Auditor General, (416) 327-1326;
Andréa Vanasse/Joel Ruimy, Communications, (416) 327-2336

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