Hospitals' MRSA cases shame

By Danielle NuttallMORE than 50 patients contracted the MRSA superbug while being treated at one of the region's hospitals, it has been revealed.The Department of Health published figures last night on the number of MRSA cases at general and specialist hospitals.

By Danielle Nuttall

MORE than 50 patients contracted the MRSA superbug while being treated at one of the region's hospitals, it has been revealed.

The Department of Health published figures last night on the number of MRSA cases at general and specialist hospitals.

The league tables showed there were 126 cases of MRSA at Addenbrooke's Hospital Trust in Cambridge between April 2003 to March 2004, a rate of 0.38 cases per 1,000 overnight stays by patients - making it the second worst specialist hospital in the country.


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They also revealed there were 52 cases at Ipswich Hospital Trust during that time, an MRSA rate of 0.21 cases per 1,000 overnight stays by patients, placing it 21st in the list of acute hospitals.

The figures mean one in 5,000 patients staying overnight at the Heath Road hospital had contracted an infection caused by the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bug, making it the joint worst acute hospital in the region.

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Ipswich Hospital spokeswoman Jan Rowsell said the figure had slightly fallen compared to the previous year's MRSA rate of 0.22.

She added: “Preventing and killing infection is the key priority for all of us working in health across the NHS and it's actually a challenge because we are an exceptionally busy hospital and our bed occupancy rates are very high.

“The last thing we would ever want is to be complacent with MRSA or any other hospital acquired infection and we need a partnership with all our communities.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel. There is major investment in our new Garrett Anderson Centre, which will mean we will have more beds and will be able to make more of a distinction between emergency patients and patients coming in for routine operations.”

The spokeswoman added: “We are doing an enormous amount of work, including introducing bug stop stations which are at the entrance to every ward.

”We want to encourage people to wash their hands when they come on to a ward and when they leave. There is a specialist infection control team with infection control check nurses in every single area of the hospital.”

The league tables, compiled by the Department of Health and the Health Protection Agency, were published yesterday as a report from the National Audit Office blamed poor working practices in hospitals and a continuing lack of cleanliness and hygiene for rising infection rates.

They showed that infections caused by MRSA had increased nationally from 7,384 in 2002/03 to 7,647 in 2003/04 - a rise of 3.6%.

The figures showed Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Trust had 64 cases with an MRSA rate of 0.21, Mid Essex Hospital Services Trust - which runs Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford - had 43 cases (0.18 MRSA rate), James Paget Healthcare Trust in Gorleston had 30 cases (0.18 MRSA rate) and and West Suffolk Hospitals Trust had 37 cases (0.18 MRSA rate).

The region's top performer was Essex Rivers Healthcare Trust - which runs Colchester General Hospital - with 16 cases, an MRSA rate of 0.07, making it the joint eighth best acute hospital in the country.

Health Secretary John Reid said: “It is clear from these figures, and from the National Audit Office report, that some parts of the NHS have to do more to control this threat and match the achievements of hospitals which maintain low MRSA rates.

“The National Audit Office report is an important reminder that everyone in the NHS needs to keep infection control at the top of their agenda.”

Health Protection Agency chief executive, Professor Pat Troop, added: “The increase we have seen in these infections over the last decade is caused by a combination of reasons, including the fact that through the advances in modern medicine we are now able to keep patients alive for longer.

“But this means carrying out more invasive procedures, which can lead to infection and also through the emergence of epidemic strains of MRSA, which can be more difficult to control.”

danielle.nuttall@eadt.co.uk

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