Friday, August 29, 2008

"If you're not feeling well, you might see a doctor'

The elderly woman who died recently at the Timmins and District Hospital (TDH) had the listeria bacteria in her body, but as yet no one can say if that was indeed the cause of death. She is the one and only known case of listeria infection, connected to the Maple Leaf Foods listeria, who was brought to TDH.
That was the crux of the news conference held in Timmins Wednesday afternoon, that essentially confirmed the front-page story published in The Timmins Times on Wednesday and in The Times news blog ( on Tuesday.
Hospital and health officials in Timmins have confirmed what The Timmins Times revealed on Wednesday, that the Porcupine Health Unit (PHU) is investigating three cases of listeria within its jurisdiction including the case of the woman who died.
“Test results on an elderly female patient that died here at the hospital have been confirmed positive for listeria monocytongenes bacterium. Further testing by the Toronto Public Health lab has identified that his strain is the one that is linked to the Maple Leaf Foods outbreak,” said Esko Vainio, the chief executive officer of the Timmins and District Hospital.
Vainio says the patient did not develop listeria at TDH, but was sent to the hospital from a nearby community.
“As usual, our hospital’s health care team provided professional and compassionate care for this patient who was referred here from another community in our service area,” said Vainio. Neither he nor officials of the health unit would identify the patient, or what community she was from, for privacy reasons.
He added that the hospital could not say for certain that listeria was the cause of death.
“The patient had multiple health problems and obviously it’s really a clinical judgment as to what exactly caused the unfortunate demise of this elderly lady and we do not have that formal confirmation,” said Vainio
“We understand that the coroner’s office may become involved in cases such as this,” Vainio continued, “therefore we cannot comment further about this patient or where this patient is from.”
Jodie Russell, the hospital’s Coordinator of Infection Control explained that blood samples are taken at the hospital and all unusual findings are reported to the Ontario Ministry of Health and the health unit as a matter of record.
“There are designated communicable diseases that must be reported,” said Russell. All such information is entered into a provincial database.
The listeria sample from the deceased woman is the only listeria sample discovered this year at TDH. The two other listeria cases being investigated by the health unit do not involve the hospital Russell said.
Vainio also revealed that hospitals and old age homes were notified early about the concern over tainted meats.
“Our food service staff disposed of all suspected meat products a week before the public recall, so we do not expect any problems for anything that was served here,” said Vainio.
Vainio said he had no explanation about the early warning except that it involved public health agencies and Maple Leaf Foods.
“I can’t speak to that. We’re glad that we had advance notice. I wish everybody had advance notice, but it’s not in our hands.”
In the meantime, Bob Bell the health unit’s manager of public health inspection says his team will continue to ensure that tainted meat products are removed from the public domain.
With respect to concerns about individual health, Bell said it’s a matter a personal choice.
“We do normally get calls from people regarding symptoms and our direction is to seek medical attention if somebody is not feeling well,” said Bell.(photo at right)
“As public health inspectors, we are not medical practitioners and if a person is not feeling well, they are the best judge and they should be seeking medical attention and get in contact with their family physician,” he added.
“One of the problems with food-borne illness is that the symptoms are very similar to flu-like symptoms and food-borne illnesses are truly under reported; not just in Canada, it’s a world wide thing,” said Bell.
The TDH emergency department is prepared to handle any personal health concerns according to Vainio.
“And our expectation as a hospital is that probably we already have people presenting here and will have people presenting here who are concerned about their symptoms. In our emergency department, it’s a fact of life,” said Vainio.
“The hospital and the health unit jointly wish to express our sincere condolences to the family of this unfortunate lady who passed here in July,” Vainio added.

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