MANAGEMENT at the University Hospital Limerick (UHL) have responded to whistleblower claims that 27 named patients died as a result of so-called ‘superbug’ infections.
The whistleblower, who is a HSE employee, claims that the infections were known about as far back as 2009 but that managers failed to tackle the outbreak adequately.
She also claims she was victimised for contacting HIQA, the health service watchdog.
HIQA sent inspectors to the Dooradoyle hospital and they published a report that was critical of the hospitals facilities for preventing the spread of the infections, which are highly resistant to antibiotics.
A statement issued by the UL Hospitals Group to the Limerick Post said that the “management of multi-drug resistant organisms through infection prevention and control (IP&C) procedures and proper antimicrobial stewardship is taken with the utmost seriousness.
“Given the concerns around our ward infrastructure at UHL, with large wards the norm in the older parts of the building, we have asked the HSE national capital group for funding for a new 96 bedded single block unit to address our accommodation difficulties and lack of adequate isolation facilities.
“We have also sought additional IP&C resources to ensure that further surveillance and follow-up of at-risk patients in the community is undertaken.
The statement went on to say that stopping the spread of superbugs is one of the biggest problems in healthcare.
“Research conducted last year found that of the 92 cases of CRE (superbug) detected in the Mid-West between 2009 and May of last year, 27 deaths had been recorded.
In three of these cases, CRE was found to be a contributing factor in their deaths. In the remainder, a CRE detection was associated but was not the primary cause of death.
“UL Hospitals has developed a quality improvement plan in regard to CRE, which includes an intensive screening programme; use of an isolation ward for newly detected or known positive patients to reduce the risk of cross-transmission; flagging all CRE positive cases and CRE contacts and reporting new cases appropriately through our microbiology team.
The Hospitals Group has also introduced a preferred prescribing policy for antibiotic selections and there has been an overall reduction of 40 per cent of new detections in the first six months of this year.
“A cohort ward for patients with infections was opened at UHL last November. It is acknowledged that this is not the ultimate solution to the shortage of isolation facilities at UHL.
“The long-term solution is single occupancy rooms for inpatients such as that provided at the 50-bedded block in Ennis Hospital.
“In the meantime, UL Hospitals Group will continue to work with HIQA and with the HSE nationally to ensure best practice is followed in this regard,” the statement concludes.