Slight fall in superbug infections

The number of patients infected with the potentially lethal hospital superbug MRSA fell slightly last year, new figures revealed today.

Health chiefs revealed there were 526 cases of the bloodstream infection in 2007, compared to 572 the previous year.

The HSE's Health Protection Surveillance Centre said although there has been some reduction in numbers, the rate is still high compared to other European countries.

Patient groups gave a guarded welcome to the drop, but maintained that more work needs to be done.

The study revealed the highest rates were in Dublin's St James's Hospital, which had 61 cases down from 65, while Beaumont Hospital reported 50 patients with the infection, a drop from 70 in 2006.

Elsewhere, the report showed that 10 hospitals has no cases of MRSA, while two facilities - St Columcille's Hospital, Loughlinstown, and Erinville Hospital, Cork - did not submit any figures.

The figures were released just weeks after Dublin Country Coroner Dr Kieran Geraghty called for the appointment of a microbiologist at St Columcille's where 16 patients died of superbugs including MRSA and Clostridium Difficile (C diff) over seven months last year.

Cathriona Molloy, of Patient Focus, said although the reduction was welcome the size of the drop was disappointing.

"These figures show a lot more work still needs to be done," she said.

"No data has been received from some of the hospitals, so you have to be curious if the figures are realistic and why no information was received from these hospitals.

"We have heard a lot about the number of people contracting C diff in Loughlinstown recently, but that infection has not come under this report.

"However, C diff has since been made a notable infection it will have to be listed in next year's figures."

The report also revealed there was a slight increase in hospital antibiotic consumption and a marked increase in the average amount of alcohol hand-rubs used in hospitals.

The overall level of alcohol hand-rub consumption - from 10.5 litres per 1,000 bed-days in 2006 to 15 litres per 1,000 bed-days - is similar to levels reported from successful hand hygiene campaigns internationally.

Mr Molloy continued: "It is a good that people in hospitals are using hand-rubs, but it is not clear if the slight drop in infections was due to the them or the antibiotics.

"Overall the reports makes us question if the HSE is really on target to reduce health care associated infections by 20%."

The HSE said it remains committed to targets set last year, when it was stated that it aimed to reduce health care associated infections by 20%, MRSA infections by 30%, and antibiotic consumption by 20%

The data included in the latest report are associated with multiple caveats," said a spokesperson.

"Nevertheless, it demonstrates the willingness of hospitals in Ireland to provide data, and provides crucial baseline measurement that will inform the further implementation of the HSE's HCAI strategy."

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