Dublin County Coroner Dr Kieran Geraghty was told no consultant microbiologist, whose specialist knowledge could limit the spread of hospital-acquired infections like MRSA, was employed at St Columcille’s Hospital in Loughlinstown, Co Dublin.
Consultant geriatrician Dr Morgan Crowe said the hospital’s management had been asking the HSE to approve the appointment of a consultant microbiologist for almost two years.
At a separate inquest, another consultant at St Columcille’s revealed the hospital had no facility to isolate MRSA patients within its intensive care unit.
An inquest into the death of Thomas Long, 77, of St Peter’s Place, Arklow, Co Wicklow heard that he had contracted both MRSA and clostridium difficile (C-Diff), while in St Columcille’s.
C-Diff is a potentially fatal infection normally acquired as a result of taking antibiotics.
Dr Crowe pointed out that most hospitals acted as “a reservoir of spores” for the infection which was spread by human contact.
Dr Crowe said the risk could only be reduced through every hospital having their own infection control policy regularly monitored by an expert.
He said there was no such specialist working at St Columcille’s’ Hospital, even though he understood the HSE had finally approved such a position a few weeks ago.
However, it remains unclear if the appointment will go ahead following the HSE’s recent decision to place an immediate freeze on all recruitment in the health services.
Under questioning by Dr Geraghty, Dr Crowe said he believed “on balance” that Mr Long’s treatment with antibiotics would have been changed by a consultant microbiologist.
Dr Geraghty returned an open verdict after he ruled that it was impossible to say what role the C-Diff infection had contributed to Mr Long’s death.