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C. difficile Costing More Lives than SARS

(June 3, 2008) “More than five times as many people have died from C. difficile than those who died of SARS,” said Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson as he condemned the McGuinty government today after the announcement of four confirmed cases of Clostridium Difficile (C difficile) at Stevenson Memorial Hospital in Alliston.

“Minister Smitherman knew that C difficile was going to be a major problem and it wasn’t until the PC Party started pounding him in Question Period over the past several weeks that he finally decided to require mandatory reporting,” said Wilson.

In fact, as early as 2004, a Toronto Star article reported that the province's newly formed Provincial Infectious Diseases Advisory Committee was looking at adding C.difficile to the list of reportable diseases. In 2005, a spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care said the Ministry had set up a committee to determine whether infectious diseases like C.difficile should be reported. In June 2005, CUPE's hospital division called on the Ontario government to make C.difficile a reportable infection. In July 2007, Dr. Alan Baker, an infection control expert advised the government to make C.difficile a reportable infection. Despite the many warnings, the Liberal government did not move to implement mandatory reporting by all Ontario hospitals of C.difficile cases until last week, putting in place a September 30, 2008 deadline.

Wilson said he was unsure if people truly understand what a serious problem this is.  “260 people have died so far of C. difficile that we know of -- 44 people died of SARS,” he said.  “This entire outbreak has occurred under the McGuinty government’s watch and public safety warrants a full public investigation right away.”

During the SARS epidemic in 2003, the Conservative government gave briefings several times a day jointly with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and launched the SARS Commission to investigate the outbreak. Despite assurances that pandemic protocols exist in the province, George Smitherman has refused to provide leadership throughout this outbreak.

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