Most Canadian hospitals below recommended standards

A national survey by a medical researcher at Queen's University conducted prior to last spring's deadly SARS outbreak in Toronto shows that as many as 80 per cent of hospitals across Canada fall seriously short in preventing patients from getting hospital infections.

"This is a tragedy and very disturbing. The results clearly show that we need to be doing a lot more to prevent hospital-acquired infections," says Queen's epidemiologist Dr. Dick Zoutman, Director of Infection Control Services at Kingston General Hospital (KGH) and chair of the Ontario SARS Scientific Advisory Committee. "Our hospitals are not safe enough."

"SARS put hospital infection control at the top of everyone's radar screen, and showed how vulnerable our hospitals are to the spread of infectious disease in this case, one with a high mortality rate," Dr. Zoutman notes. "While the immediate threat of SARS has lessened, this study should be a wake-up call that other hospital-acquired infections (equally devastating to staff and patients) will continue to plague us unless improved infection control measures are put into place," he says.

Statistics gathered by the Community and Hospital Infection Control Association of Canada, of which Dr. Zoutman is Physician Director, indicate that about 250,000 patients a year experience infected surgical wounds, blood infections, and antibiotic-resistant organisms while in hospital and 8,000 of these patients will die. The annual cost of treating patients who acquire such infections is estimated at a minimum of $1 billion.

The survey, entitled Resources for Infection Control in Hospitals (RICH), was conducted in the fall of 2000 by the Canadian Hospital Epidemiology Committee (CHEC), a group of medical specialists who head infection control programs in about 30 hospitals across the country. It is published in the current issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.

Sponsored by Health Canada's Population an

Contact: Nancy Dorrance
Queen's University

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