FREDERICTON (GNB) – In her latest report to the legislative assembly, Auditor General Kim MacPherson identified numerous deficiencies in infection prevention and control practices at hospitals administered by the two Regional Health Authorities (RHAs). 

The deficiencies include healthcare workers failing to clean their hands as required, improper storage of biomedical waste, overcrowding in certain treatment areas, and a number of issues with the delivery, storage, and usage of clothing and linens.

“Based on the number and variety of deficiencies we observed, we believe there is inadequate monitoring of infection prevention and control policies and practices in hospitals,” said MacPherson. “We also conclude RHAs need to strengthen enforcement of policies and procedures.” 

The audit involved visiting eight hospitals in the province including five hospitals within the Horizon Health Network and three hospitals within the Vitalité Health Network. While acknowledging the two RHAs have infection prevention and control programs in place to protect people from hospital-acquired infections, MacPherson noted inconsistent policies and procedures between the two RHAs.

To highlight the critical significance of infection prevention and control, she cited recent published statistics on the subject. Healthcare-associated infections ‘are common - one out of every 10 patients admitted to hospital will get one’ and they can also be very serious - about 12,000 deaths in Canada are caused by these infections each year.

During 2013-14, New Brunswick hospitals reported 228 cases of Clostridium difficile infection and three cases of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteremia. The report includes data on the number of cases for each acute care hospital in the province.

“Hospital-acquired infections affect the condition and comfort of the patient. They also cause increased costs due to longer hospital stays, additional procedures, etc. Infection control equates to cost control,” added MacPherson.

The Auditor General made a number of recommendations to the two RHAs and the Department of Health including:

  • addressing RHA deficiencies and inconsistencies within their respective programs;
  • performing regular “walk arounds” by infection prevention and control professionals and all managers to observe compliance with policies and procedures;
  • developing a provincial infection prevention and control program and strategy in consultation with the RHAs; and
  • enhancing public reporting on the effectiveness of infection prevention and control program.

MacPherson was pleased to note staff at both RHAs began working to address many of the deficiencies immediately, and have agreed with the recommendations in the report.

The chapter Infection Prevention and Control in Hospitals can be found in Volume II of the 2015 Auditor General Report which contains three performance reports. Volume I, released earlier this year, reported on Financial Assistance to Atcon Holdings Inc. and Industry. The Auditor General Reports are available online.