07/31/2012 08:19 EDT | Updated 09/30/2012 05:12 EDT

Another C. difficile case reported at Hamilton hospital

A new case of C. difficile has been reported at Hamilton General Hospital, bringing the total at the hospital to five.

The hospital declared an outbreak of the bacterial infection in its surgical trauma unit Monday. It says the new case has emerged elsewhere in the hospital.

That brings the total to three in the surgical trauma unit known as 6 South and two elsewhere in the hospital.

There are 11 patients with the infection in isolation at St. Joseph's Healthcare's Charlton campus, which declared an outbreak on Saturday.

Hamilton General continues to monitor the situation at the hospital, said spokesperson Lillian Badzioch.

“We're having regular daily meetings, and heightened vigilance and cleaning protocols are in place.”

At St. Joseph's Charlton campus, 16 patients have been diagnosed with the infection since the beginning of June.

One woman with C. difficile has died there, but the infection “is not thought to be highly significant in that patient's death,” Winnie Doyle, vice-president of clinical programs at St. Joseph's Healthcare, said on Monday.

The recent C. difficile outbreaks hit home for Sue Daly, whose husband Archie McIsaac died with the infection on July 25.

McIsaac was a patient at the Juravinski Hospital when he died. He contracted vancomycin-resistant enterococcus (VRE) after a surgery, and was diagnosed with C. difficile on July 23, Daly said.

Quality of life diminished

McIsaac was fighting two types of cancer. But Daly believes it was the hospital-acquired infections — particularly C. difficile — that ultimately killed him.

His quality of life diminished severely from the infections, she said.

She is calling for heightened cleaning and isolation at Hamilton hospitals. Both were lacking in her husband's final days at the hospital, she said.

“I'd hate for anyone else to spend their last days like this.”

Cindy O'Neill, Juravinski Hospital's manager of infection prevention and control, said the hospital is serious about cleaning and isolation.

“I'm really confident in our cleaning protocol.”

There are currently four cases of C. difficile at Juravinski Hospital, which is not enough to be considered an outbreak. It's not unusual for any Ontario hospital to have one to five cases at any given time, she said.

C. difficile taken seriously

A patient diagnosed with C. difficile is put in a private room with “contact precautions.” Visitors and staff need to wear gowns and gloves and vigilantly wash their hands when in contact with the patient, she said.

“We take C. difficile very seriously and we do surveillance for it,” she said.

That's little consolation to Daly, who watched her husband grow progressively weaker and become non-communicative in his final days.

A Cape Breton native, McIsaac was a 72-year-old retired Stelco employee with 14 grandchildren. He loved the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Young and the Restless and camping in the family trailer.

“I don't know how much longer he would have had from the cancer,” she said. “Nobody knows that. But he shouldn't have had to spend his last days with these infections taking over his body.”