Report says tussle between authorities endangered patients






chris bolin/for metro calgary

Dr. John Cowell, chief executive officer of the Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA), speaks at a press conference.

A turf war over who had control of procedures at a rural Alberta hospital is being blamed for a superbug outbreak that thousands of Albertans are now being tested for.

A report released by the Health Quality Council of Alberta says there was lack of agreement between the East-Central Health Region and a Vegreville hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital, over who had final authority concerning sterilization practices.

Dr. John Cowell, chief executive officer of the Council, said that thousands of people in the ECH region are being tested for infection, hundreds of patients have been warned they may have been infected by HIV and hepatitis B. Thus far there have been no reported cases.

There have been 130 MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus) cases reported, and there’s still testing to be done.

“The majority of these people have been hospitalized for it. What is not known is if there have been any deaths,” said Cowell at a news conference held yesterday morning in Calgary. “This is a very serious infection.”

Eleven other hospitals in the ECH were also reviewed, and each was found to have safety standard problems, including disinfection versus sterilization of foot care instruments and re-use of cautery devices intended for single use only.

St. Joseph’s was closed to new patients for several weeks in March after the outbreak occurred.

The controversy has led the provincial government to fire the board of one of its regional health authorities.

Health and Wellness Minister Dave Hancock said Alberta plans to introduce standards for infection control.

“There hasn’t been a sufficient priority and understanding that the priority is patient safety,” Hancock said yesterday in Edmonton.

He said the province will establish strict standards to ensure appropriate and safe infection prevention and control throughout Alberta’s health system.

“I want to assure Albertans that my priority as minister of health, and the priority of this government, is patient safety and quality health care,” Hancock said.

South of the capital, the Calgary Health Region maintains that it’s health standards are up to par.

Tracy Wasylak, vice-president, Southwest Community Portfolio CHR, said the health region would be willing to work with the HQCA and have them come in for a review of hospitals at any time.

“The CHR would open our doors to anyone and compare ourselves to any region in the country,” Wasylak said. “A provincial set of standards would make it easier to measure and compare regions’ sterilization standards.”