Superbug outbreaks worsened by B.C. policies: NDP
New Westminster's Royal Columbian is facing a bacterial outbreak, but Fraser Health says it's still safe. (FILE PHOTO)
This week's outbreak of a drug-resistant superbug at Royal Columbian Hospital has critics accusing the government of inaction on longstanding concerns with overcrowding, understaffing and “hallway medicine.”
Fraser Health confirmed that five patients were placed in an isolation unit.
BC NDP health critic Judy Darcy said although antibiotic overuse is a key factor in such outbreaks, superbugs “spread more quickly” with overcrowding and insufficient cleaning.
“These problems — the overcrowding, understaffing and hallway medicine — continue to this day,” Darcy said. “There's an urgent need for action, but it worries me that the review of Fraser Health, which was finally announced in November, has barely gotten off the ground yet.”
The bacterial infection in question — carbapenemaseproducing enterobacteriaceae (CPE) — is hard to treat with even the most recent antibiotics, and most carriers don't even know they have it. A first step, said Fraser Health's Dr. Elizabeth Brotkin is to segregate them in their own rooms with separate nursing and cleaning staff.
“You don't have a lot of other tools in the toolbox,” Brodkin said. “It's always more difficult to do infection control in an older site where the infrastructure needed for modern infection control is not in place ... Overcrowding is always an issue.”
The ongoing concerns come nearly two years after the province warned Fraser Health to address crowding concerns. Darcy said provincial funding is not keeping pace with rising health-care costs. Health Minister Terry Lake was not available for comment. Fraser Health said RCH was slated for renovations.