Four local hospitals have come together to fight the potentially deadly infection, clostridium difficile, otherwise known as C. Diff.
The collaboration began four and a half years ago between Strong Memorial Hospital, Highland, Unity and Rochester General Hospital.
Dr. Ghinwa Dumyati of URMC leads the collaboration that began because of the rising number of C. diff cases in hospitals and nursing homes.
“You get exposed to the organism and you end up having diarrhea and some of it can be severe,” Dumyati said. “You can have intractable diarrhea for days some people end up dying.”
Previously, each department and hospital fought the infection on their own; the infection proved to be too difficult to fight alone. The infection is spread on the hands of health-care workers, it’s able to survive for months on bed rails, call buttons and door knobs and is fueled by antibiotics. Hospitals were spending millions of dollars a year because of the amount of people contracting the infection.
Dr. Martin Lustick is with Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, one of the collaborative partners.
“When we looked at data we estimated people will stay an extra three days to three weeks to get treated for this infection,” Lustick said. “And when you look at the cost for added length of stay and treatments combined with the stay you are running into thousands of dollars per case.”
Doctors, nurses, pharmacists and even environmental service workers are involved in the collaboration.They created a list of guidelines for each hospital to follow including the use of specialized cleaning procedures and hand washing education for staff and patients.
“That was the initial step was the infection control and environmental cleaning to get rid of the spor and to prevent the transmission,” Dumyati said.
Another key factor in preventing transmission of the bacteria is reducing the inappropriate use of antibiotics.
“You have thousands of bacteria in your large intestine and they kind of protect you,” Dumyati said. “When you get an antibiotic, it kills them all. When you ingest the bacteria C. iff and it can multiply because there is nothing to make it stop since all the good bacteria to fight it off is gone. The antibiotic you are on can’t kill that bacteria too. The antibiotic we use for most of the infections in the hospital won’t kill it.”
Their collaboration paid off. The doctors say at the end of 2015 C. Diff infections fell 36% from 2011 across the hospitals.
Dr. Dumyati said her next goal is to target C. Diff at outpatient clinics because many cases of the infection aren’t linked to hospitals or nursing home facilities.