Probe to discover if Superbug had role in hospital deaths

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University Hospital Limerick

DOZENS of patients at the University Hospital in Limerick were exposed to a potentially lethal ‘superbug’, an inspection by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has revealed.

The announced inspection took place in September when more than 70 people had been in contact with the CPE superbug, which has developed resistance to strong antibiotics.

A review is now underway to find out if the bug caused or contributed to the deaths of any patients. 

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The report acknowledged that an application from the hospital for additional infection prevention and control nurses as well as scientists and another pharmacist with expertise in antibiotics was turned down by the HSE.

On the day of the inspection, 449 patients were in the hospital and 95 needed isolation in single rooms. Only 42 were isolated and 28 were in wards with patients who were not an infection risk.

The standard of cleaning of patient equipment and the environment needed improvement in both the haematology and cancer ward and the surgical area.  

Welcoming the HIQA report, a spokeswoman for the UL Hospitals Group said that infection prevention and control (IP&C) procedures and proper antimicrobial stewardship is taken with the utmost seriousness.

“While we have acted on the findings on hygiene, we also draw attention to HIQA’s positive assessment of the screening and other mitigation measures around CPE within the Group.  Measures to fight CPE have been stepped up, including the forming of a strategic committee.

“UL Hospitals has developed a quality improvement plan in regard to CPE.

“Apart from screening, this includes use of an isolation ward to reduce the risk of cross-transmission; flagging all CPE positive cases and CPE contacts and reporting new cases appropriately through our infection prevention and control team.

Since the new plan was implemented, the number of new CPE detections in UL Hospitals has decreased from 57 in 2015 to 43 in 2017.  

A second ward at UHL has also been refurbished at a cost of €300,000 to comply with IP&C standards, but “it is acknowledged that this is not the ultimate solution to the shortage of isolation facilities at UHL”.  

“The long-term solution for this is single occupancy rooms for inpatients such as that provided at the 50-bed unit in Ennis Hospital. We plan to provide a new 96-bed block at UHL and this priority capital project has gone to the design stage. The new emergency department at UHL is designed very much with IP&C in mind and facilitates the management of relevant patients in en-suite isolation rooms”. 

The hospital group has also completed its own internal review and has commissioned a review by a senior microbiologist from the UK, into deaths of patients with a CPE detection where a patient subsequently died.