Coroner concerned by superbug failures

A coroner is to write to health chiefs after an inquest disclosed the failure of hospitals to transfer vital patient information concerning the deadly MRSA superbug.

A coroner is to write to health chiefs after an inquest disclosed the failure of hospitals to transfer vital patient information concerning the deadly MRSA superbug.

The family of father-of-five Thomas Murdiff, who died on December 14, 2004 after being struck down by the infection, said they hoped lives would be saved by the move.

After passing a narrative verdict, which found the 53-year-old died from septicaemia due to MRSA, Dublin City Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said: "I propose to contact the Health Services Executive (HSE) and outline the circumstances surrounding Mr Murdiff's death and seek a review of the sharing of information between hospitals in relation to MRSA infections in the public interest."

Welcoming Dr Farrell's decision to write to the HSE, Mr Murdiff's wife, Ruth, from Athboy in Co Meath, said: "If this helps others, if it keeps anyone else alive, if it teaches the hospitals to take this more seriously and it saves another life, that is good news."

She added: "Tommy was such a lovely man he wouldn't like to see us going down, I have to say that when you saw one you saw both of us, I miss him terribly I can start to grieve now and I hope my children can.

"I will feel a little bit happier if this does some good for other people."

Mr Murdiff, an Evening Herald sports journalist, who suffered from diabetes, was admitted to the Mater Private Hospital on November 26, 2004 for an operation to remove a toe. Prior to this, on November 19, further tests at the outpatient diabetes clinic at the Mater Public Hospital showed MRSA had returned to the heel of his foot.

However, the Mater Private stated they were unaware when Mr Murdiff was admitted for the operation that he had tested positive for MRSA as the records were not transferred between the hospitals, as is the case with all medical facilities throughout the State.

The inquest heard Mr Murdiff would have been tested for MRSA at the Mater Private hospital if he had been transferred directly from another facility or if they had been aware he had tested positive in the past.

After passing his verdict, Dr Farrell, said he wanted to address infection control issues surrounding the superbug as it was in the public interest.

"There are infection control issues arising out of the evidence given," he said.

Dr Farrell added: "It is a fact information was not known to the Mater Private even though he was positive and a high risk patient."

The inquest heard evidence the consultant operating at the Mater Private Hospital did not see the report from the Mater Public's outpatient diabetes clinic that Mr Murdiff was MRSA positive. The court heard there was no computer link between the hospitals.

Andrew Fitzpatrick, BL for the Mater Private, said the two hospitals worked entirely separately. He said the same situation over the transfer of records would apply to every hospital in the State.

MRSA is an antibiotic resistant superbug often acquired in hospitals and it can, if it enters the bloodstream, prove fatal.

Almost 600 patients tested positive for MRSA bloodstream infections in Irish hospitals in 2005.

In the eight months before his death, the inquest heard Mr Murdiff had attended three hospitals - the Mater Public Hospital, the Mater Private and Our Lady's Hospital in Navan, Co Meath - for treatment for heart problems and diabetes related.

Dr Maureen Lynch, a consultant microbiologist at the Mater Public hospital, said MRSA was first detected in Mr Murdiff when he was an outpatient and stressed the hospital-acquired strain can also be contracted in the community.

Four tests carried out after he was admitted to the Mater Public Hospital in May 2004 proved negative for the bug. However, in July, a month after his discharge, he tested positive and was treated successfully. He then tested positive for the superbug a second time at the diabetes outpatient clinic in November, shortly before his toe was amputated.

He was discharged from the Mater Private on December 2 and was admitted seven days later to Our Lady's Hospital in Navan. He was found to have MRSA and was transferred to the Mater Public hospital on December 14 where he died later that day.

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