The superbug CRE was a contributory factor in three deaths at University Hospital Limerick between 2009 and 2015, says the HSE.
It said that of the 92 cases of multi drug-resistant CRE detected in the Mid-West between 2009 and the end of May 2015, some 27 deaths had been recorded.
A HSE spokesman said: “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.”
Dr Paul Burke, clinical director of the UL Hospitals Group, said the CRE figures were comparable with those found elsewhere. “People should not be worried. If they are ill they should come to hospital,” he said.
He said the group has developed a quality improvement plan for the control of CRE. This has led to an overall reduction of 40% of new detections of CRE in the first six months of this year compared to the corresponding 2015 period.
“Measures include 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 through the management, surveillance and reporting software ICNet; and reporting new cases appropriately through our microbiology team,” he said.
“In addition UL Hospitals Group has introduced a preferred prescribing policy for antibiotic selections. Strict guidelines are issued to all [non-consultant hospital doctors] in relation to antibiotic prescribing in terms of first line and second line antibiotics. More complex antibiotics are referred to the microbiology team before they are prescribed.”
A HSE spokesman said the UL Hospitals Group will continue to work with Hiqa and the HSE nationally to ensure best practice is followed in dealing with CRE.
“A cohort ward for patients with infections was opened at UHL in November 2015. It is acknowledged that this is not the ultimate solution to the shortage of isolation facilities at UHL,” said the spokesman.
“The long-term solution for this is single occupancy rooms for inpatients such as those provided at the 50-bed block in Ennis Hospital. UL Hospitals Group has made a bid under the capital programme to provide a new 96-bed block at UHL and looks forward to a favourable outcome in this regard to support best practice.”
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