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Keeping Ontarians Safe Through Public Reporting

Archived Backgrounder

Keeping Ontarians Safe Through Public Reporting

Ministry of Health

Health care-associated infections are an unwelcome reality in modern health care settings across the globe. Prevention and control of these infections in hospitals is a priority for Ontario and is key to keeping patients safe.

Measures to fight hospital-acquired infections

The government is committed to improving infection control in the province's hospitals. The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has already taken action through work on a number of initiatives, including:

  • A multifaceted hand-hygiene program for hospitals, called Just Clean Your Hands, was launched by the ministry in March 2008 and was expanded to include Long-Term Care homes in December 2009. Improving hand hygiene is the single most effective way of reducing the spread of infections.
  • The ministry has funded 166 infection control practitioners in hospitals to help ensure that the necessary expertise is in place to prevent and control infections and infectious diseases in hospitals.
  • 14 Regional Infection Control Networks have been created across the province to promote a common approach to infection prevention and control and the use of best practices.
  • A standardized educational program -- Infection Prevention and Control Core Competency Education -- for front-line health-care providers has been developed and was recently transferred to Public Health Ontario.
  • The creation of Infection Control Resource Teams to provide rapid, on-site assistance with outbreak investigation and management in hospitals.
  • Supporting hospitals in the most effective use of antibiotics through work Public Health Ontario is doing with the Institute for Safe Medication Practices Canada.

Public reporting on patient safety indicators

Ontario hospitals are publicly reporting on nine patient safety indicators related to hospital-acquired infections, activities to reduce such infections, and mortality as part of a comprehensive plan to improve transparency in the province's hospitals. Information and the latest rates on these patient safety indicators are available on the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care's website.

The nine patient safety indicators are:

  • Clostridium difficile Infection
  • Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus
  • Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus
  • Hospital Standardized Mortality Ratio
  • Central Line-Associated Primary Bloodstream Infection
  • Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia
  • Surgical Site Infection Prevention
  • Hand Hygiene Compliance
  • Surgical Safety Checklist Compliance

Clostridium difficile (C. Difficile) Infection

C. difficile infection is a common bacterium that occurs naturally in the intestine. A C. difficile  infection can cause diarrhea and more serious intestinal conditions. For healthy people, it usually causes no harm. However, the elderly, those who are seriously ill, and those with poor health have an increased risk of developing C. difficile infection. This can result in a range of conditions from mild diarrhea to, in severe cases, life-threatening illness.

Patients with C. difficile infection can shed "clostridial spores". These spores can survive in the environment for a long time. The spores can spread through hand contact in health care settings to patients who are already sick and vulnerable to infection. The bacteria can enter the stomach if the mouth is touched or if food is handled after contact with a contaminated surface. Once in the stomach, the bacteria will usually not cause any problems. However, if the normal bowel bacteria are disturbed, which can happen when antibiotics are taken, C. difficile bacteria may grow and produce a toxin that will cause illness. C. difficile infection rates have been reported monthly in Ontario since September 2008.

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