Skip to content

VRE outbreak still impacting hospital

Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre is getting a handle on the situation, but Dr. David Gregory Gamble says it will still take some time to rid the facility of the bacterial outbreak.
David Gregory Gamble
David Gregory Gamble, medical lead for infection control at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, on Friday, April 13, 2018 speaks about the ongoing VRE outbreak at the hospital. (Leith Dunick,

THUNDER BAY – The medical lead for infection control at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre they’ve started to get ahead of bacterial outbreak at the hospital.

But David Gregory Gamble says it will take some time to eliminate the risk and restrictions on seven wards will remain in place.

Additionally, another ward has been hit by an enteric virus outbreak, which was declared on Thursday night, which Gamble likened to a norovirus infection and leads to vomiting and diarrhea in patients afflicted with the disease.

Gamble said vancomycin-resistant enterococci, also known as VRE, has been lingering at the hospital for the past couple of months.

“We’re working fairly diligently to bring it under control, but it’s an environmental pathogen, so it takes a while to actually get the upper hand. It persists a while in the environment, so there’s a lot of action that has to happen in terms of environmental cleaning and also staff washing their hands,” he said.

“There’s a whole intricate play of factors.”

It’s a wait and see approach, he added.

“It’s taken us three months so far and we’ve got a few wards that are close to coming out of outbreak. The process is fairly rigorous. We have to have all patients screened on a weekly basis. And you need two weeks of no evidence of transmission on those wards before we can actually lift the outbreak status,” Gamble said.

On average during the outbreak, between one and six new incidents of people carrying the VRE bacteria have been uncovered on a weekly basis, though Gamble also said they’ve only had one case of VRE infection diagnosed since the outbreak began in January.

“It’s not a particularly virulent pathogen, it’s just that we don’t want people to be acquiring this organism in our hospital,” Gamble said.

Patients identified as VRE-positive are isolated appropriately, which has impacted bed flow and the hospital’s ability to use some space on the affected wards to house patients. It’s also affected the hospital’s visitation policy.

“We’ve been much more adherent to the hospital visitor policy and that’s probably had some impact or people have noticed a difference when they’ve come to the hospital,” he said, adding visitors should vigorously wash their hands and consider postponing a visit if they’re not feeling well.

Those restrictions may be even stricter on the ward diagnosed with the enteric outbreak.

“If people can respect that, that would be terrific.”

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
Read more


push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks