Hospital unit first built to resist superbug threat

ALMOST 10 years after a strategy was launched to deal with the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance in Ireland, Ennis General Hospital is set to become Ireland’s first fully SARI compliant facility for inpatient accommodation.

Antimicrobial consumption in hospitals has been a key factor in the emergence of antimicrobial-resistant pathogens or so-called “superbugs” such as MRSA and C-difficile. Use of certain broad spectrum antibiotic classes has been blamed for the emergence of such pathogens.

In 2001, the Minister for Health and Children, Micheál Martin, launched a Strategy for the Control of Antimicrobial Resistance in Ireland (SARI) in which significant emphasis was placed on the importance of careful and appropriate antibiotic use, so-called “antimicrobial stewardship”. In 2003, a working group produced recommendations on stewardship in Irish hospitals.

Nearly a decade after the initiative was first established and following several deaths nationwide from these “superbugs”, Ennis General Hospital is set to become the country’s first 100% SARI compliant medical facility.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) was granted permission last week to construct a new €15 million 50-bed wing which will meet requirements for inpatient care as set out under the SARI programme. On completion, all patients will be transferred from the existing building to the new wing.

Construction of the new wing could commence before the end of October if there are no appeals of the planning permission within the statutory four-week period. If there are no objections, the HSE has to give a further fortnight’s notice of commencement of works. The project is expected to take six months to complete and will comprise a two-storey building with single rooms all of which will have en-suite facilities.

Former Clare TD James Breen, who himself contracted MRSA in a doctor’s surgery in 2005, said: “This is a very welcome and positive development. We have been over-reliant on antibiotics for many years and we have seen what this has done. I was expelled from the Dáil twice when I tried to raise the issue of MRSA but it raised awareness and within days eight TDs from across the country had tabled questions on the matter. This also led to the introduction of stricter hygiene controls in hospitals.”

Clare Fine Gael deputy Joe Carey is adamant that there should be no delay in delivering the project.

“While the new 50-bed unit is not a total redevelopment of the hospital as previously promised, it is most welcome. My understanding is that Ennis will become the first fully SARI compliant facility in the country. Such a development will enhance the confidence in the hospital, and improve the standard of healthcare provision in Co Clare,” Mr Carey said.

Meanwhile, enabling works for the provision of a new endoscopy suite have commenced at the Ennis hospital. It is hoped that planning permission for the unit will be finalised before these preparatory works are completed allowing construction of the new unit to proceed without delay.

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