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Another life claimed by C. difficile, death toll at 21 in Niagara region

Protesters from across the Niagara Region held a rally outside the Greater Niagara General Hospital in Niagara Falls on Wednesday, July 6, 2011 to voice their displeasure with the way the hospitals are being run.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

One more patient has died in connection with an outbreak of C. difficile in Niagara Health System hospitals, bringing the total number of deaths in that region to 21.

"This was an elderly patient with multiple health issues," said Dr. Sue Matthews, interim chief executive officer of the health system. The patient died at the Welland site of the Niagara Health System.

The health system is reviewing all of the deaths to determine what role the disease played in each, and officials say they will release a report on the findings after meeting with all of the patients' families.

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Seven hospitals, including three in the Niagara Health System, continue to battle deadly outbreaks of Clostridium difficile, which attacks the lining of the gut and can cause severe diarrhea in some patients. Elderly patients and those on antibiotics are typically at the greatest risk.

Five other patients who had C. difficile have died at Ontario hospitals outside the Niagara Health System in recent months, according to officials at those hospitals. Hospitals are not required to report C. difficile-related deaths to the Ministry of Health.

News of the latest death in Welland came as a provincial infection control team released its report on the Niagara Health System's management of the outbreak.

The report, which focuses on the St. Catharine's General site, lists dozens of recommendations, including increased staff hours dedicated to infection prevention and additional guidelines for cleaning procedures. The authors noted the health system has already begun implementing some of the recommendations.

Dr. Matthews said Tuesday she had not yet reviewed the report, but will take the recommendations seriously.

"We expect to be held to the highest standard of transparency," she said. "We will act on any and all recommendations expeditiously and are 100 per cent accountable for the findings of the report."

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Parliamentary reporter

Kim Mackrael has been a reporter for The Globe and Mail since 2011. She joined the Ottawa bureau Sept. 2012. More

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