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OHA honors Salem Health for first Candida auris screening

10 Mar 2024

Proactive patient safety initiative began March 2023

By: Emily Sweet, internal communications lead

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) recognized Salem and West Valley hospitals as the first acute care hospitals in Oregon to start admission screening for Candida auris.


Read the letter sent Feb. 19 at the end of the story.


“This yeast is often multidrug-resistant and hard to treat,” said Carolyn Weins, RN, infection prevention manager. “Patients also can be colonized with it for the rest of their lives.”


Candida auris is emerging globally and can be difficult to identify, according to the OHA.


Salem Hospital was the first in Oregon with a patient testing positive for Candida auris in December 2021. The Infection Prevention team worked with OHA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to test patients throughout the hospital, assuring strong isolation precautions to prevent the spread to other patients.



In response to the increasing frequency of these cases, Jasmin Chaudhary, MD, medical staff president-elect and director of infection prevention and Infection Prevention Manager Carolyn Wiens, RN, felt strongly that Salem Health needed to screen patients at high risk of exposure.


The screening process began in March 2023.


“It has been revised a few times as we learn more about the at-risk populations and the increasing case numbers in the U.S.,” Carolyn said.


For the infection prevention team, the arrival of Candida auris during high COVID census — and then our higher census in general — was stressful, to say the least.


“The work done after our first patient was very time intensive,” Carolyn said. “The entire IP team jokes about our remaining PTSD when discussing Candida auris.”


But the recognition from OHA brought joy.


“I immediately felt a great sense of pride for what Salem Health has done to make our patients safer,” Carolyn said. “Starting this screening process involved staff from information services, nursing, laboratories and infection prevention.”


“It took a village, and we had some minor setbacks along the way, but this letter shows how Salem Health has become a leader in the state of Oregon to address this patient safety concern.”


Carolyn thanks JoAnne Spink, senior Epic analyst; Yturri Camara, RN, clinical informatics coordinator, and Jaimy To, laboratory support supervisor, for their help.



“They have been instrumental in setting up new screening and testing,” Carolyn said. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”


According to OHA, to date, only six cases of Candida auris have been detected in Oregon, but case counts continue to rise rapidly elsewhere in the U.S.


“By participating in prevention activities including admission screening, Salem Health demonstrates commitment to preventing this fungal pathogen from establishing endemicity in Oregon,” the letter from OHA, below, said. “Thank you for being a leader in health care-associated infection prevention and [for] your commitment to patient safety.”


“By screening our patients for Candida auris, we are creating facilities that are proactive in preventing transmission of this yeast to other patients,” Carolyn said. “A big ‘thank you’ to Salem and West Valley Hospital providers for supporting this proactive patient safety initiative.”