Hospitals fail to cut MRSA rates

HOSPITALS in the region have failed to cut MRSA rates in the last four years and could face Government intervention if they do not improve, latest figures have revealed.

HOSPITALS in the region have failed to cut MRSA rates in the last four years and could face Government intervention if they do not improve, latest figures have revealed.

According to statistics from the Department of Health, only the James Paget Hospital, in Gorleston, has made any significant inroads into cutting levels of the superbug since April 2001.

It means the region's hospitals have a lot of hard work ahead if they are to reach the Whitehall target of slashing MRSA levels by 50% by 2008 - although the first six months of this financial year do show some improvements.

At Ipswich Hospital there were 50 cases of MRSA between April 2001 and March 2002, which levelled out at 52 for each of the next two years before dropping to 51 in 2004-5 and currently stands at 22 for the period April to September last year.

West Suffolk Hospital witnessed 40 outbreaks in 2001-2, dropped to 24 the following year but increased to 37 in 2003-4 and peaked at 43 in 2004-5. Meanwhile a total of 19 cases were recorded between April and September last year.

At James Paget Hospital there were 39 cases in 2001-2, 36 in 2002-3 and 30 in 2003-4. The number rose to 50 in 2004-5 although it is now down to just 14 for the period April-September 2005.

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Union chiefs for East Anglia have said that if the Whitehall targets for reducing MRSA are to be met there needs to be an increase in the quantity and quality of cleaning staff in hospitals.

Geoff Reason, regional head of health for Unison, the public service workers union, said: “It is not just a question about the number of cleaners but also how thoroughly they clean. Unfortunately where trusts are facing severe financial pressures spending money on cleaning staff might not be a high priority so we feel the Government should make specialist cash available specifically with this purpose in mind.”

The period April to September 2005 was the first six months of the three-year Government target to reduce the number of MRSA infections throughout the country by 50%.

However according to the Department of Health around half of trusts nationally are already behind, which has prompted health minister Jane Kennedy to warn specialist “hit squads” will be sent in to the worst offenders to improve conditions.

A spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital said: “The number of MRSA blood stream infections has remained the same in England from April 2001 to September 2005. Our MRSA rates have likewise remained constant over this period. However we are working very hard to reduce this rate to 50% of its current level by April 2008.”

A spokeswoman for West Suffolk said in the last four months levels of MRSA had improved with only six cases recorded between October and January.

She said increased screening of patients, not allowing patients testing positive for MRSA on to the orthopaedic ward, infection control nurses on every ward, an increase in infection control staff and greater promotion of the Clean Your Hands campaign had all helped in the improvements.

A spokeswoman for the James Paget Hospital Trust said the figures for the last six months showed progress was being made in line with the Government targets.

Improved awareness about hospital hygiene, restrictions on visiting times and the number of visitors, a reduction in the movement of patients within the hospital and a new anti-bacterial policy all contributed to bringing levels of MRSA down, she said.

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