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Coroner told of hospital's steps to contain disease outbreak

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  • Coroner told of hospital's steps to contain disease outbreak

    Coroner told of hospital's steps to contain disease outbreak
    CanWest News Service; Montreal Gazette

    Published: Tuesday, February 27, 2007

    A St. Hyacinthe, Que., hospital hired more cleaning staff after a toxic strain of the C. difficile bug killed several victims, a coroner's inquest into the deaths heard Monday.

    Sylvie Frenette, head of technical services and responsible for hygiene at Honore Mercier Hospital, said housekeeping hired 10 additional workers in December and began disinfecting rooms twice rather than once, as recommended by the provincial health department.

    Frenette's testimony opened the fourth day of coroner Catherine Rudel-Tessier's inquest into the 16 deaths related to an outbreak of Clostridium difficile that ravaged the hospital, located about 60 kilometres southeast of Montreal, between May and November 2006.

    But Frenette's testimony was hampered by the fact that she herself was hired mid-November, after highly virulent bacteria had claimed the lives of several patients.

    For example, microbiologist Anne Vibien told the inquest last week the hospital had failed to meet its own sterilization and disinfection standards when a highly toxic strain of C. diff hit the wards.

    A strict plan drawn by administrators was never implement because of staff shortages, Vibien said last week.

    Frenette could not comment on what had happened before her arrival at the hospital.

    But lawyer Jacques Menard, who is representing victims' relatives, interpreted the hiring of extra cleaning staff after the crisis as significant.

    "Unfortunately, many health-care facilities cut maintenance staff in health-care facilities for budgetary reasons without realizing that such cuts have a major impact on the health of patients," Menard said.

    Montreal Gazette
    © CanWest News Service 2007