MP seeks assurances over hospital MRSA

By Ted JeoryAN MP is to seek an urgent meeting with hospital bosses after a report criticised it for putting pregnant women and babies at increased risk of catching MRSA.

By Ted Jeory

AN MP is to seek an urgent meeting with hospital bosses after a report criticised it for putting pregnant women and babies at increased risk of catching MRSA.

Colchester MP Bob Russell said last night he wanted to meet the man in charge of the town's general hospital to discuss its state of cleanliness.

Mr Russell said he already had concerns about cleaning policies at Essex Rivers Healthcare Trust - which runs Colchester General Hospital and the town's Essex County Hospital, and was last year downgraded to one-star status after missing Government cleanliness targets.

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But criticisms about the hospital by the respected British Medical Association (BMA), the professional association for doctors, have increased the Liberal Democrat MP's anxiety.

A report from the BMA's obstetrics and gynaecology committee criticised hospitals for filling wards with an "inappropriate mix" of patients in an attempt to meet tough accident and emergency department waiting time targets, fuelling MRSA fears.

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The committee - whose chairman is John Eddy, an Essex-based obstetrician and gynaecologist - said it had received reports of hospitals using obstetric wards - used for pregnant women - for non-obstetric patients.

The report named Colchester General Hospital and West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds as acting "inappropriately" by using spare obstetric beds for other patients in order to meet tough Government waiting time targets.

Mr Eddy said: "We do not know what kind of effect this will have on infection rates. My view is that it is a potential danger that is avoidable."

He added in the BMA's News Review: "There are particular concerns that MRSA could become a problem in obstetric units.

"Normally you do not have older people or infected people admitted to an obstetrics ward where there are healthy young mums. We fear this will raise the risk of infection for the mum and the unborn baby.

"Anti-natal wards have never been used for non-obstetric patients. Why are they suddenly doing it now?"

The BMA criticism came just days after the East Anglian Daily Times exclusively revealed that 36-hour-old Luke Day, from Woodbridge, died of an MRSA infection at Ipswich Hospital in February. It is still not known how he became infected and an investigation is continuing.

Mr Russell said last night: "I'll be seeking an urgent meeting with Essex Rivers Healthcare Trust's chief executive to ask what the situation is.

"Cleanliness is a matter of great concern and I'm afraid the mess we're getting into is a direct result of privatising cleaning contracts for hospitals."

A trust spokesman confirmed a six-bed bay in the ante-natal Stanway ward at Colchester General Hospital, normally used for women having gynaecological operations, had instead been used earlier this month for non-obstetric patients because more room was needed for people requiring emergency surgery.

He insisted standards had not fallen and added: "We took this step when we were experiencing exceptionally high numbers of emergency admissions.

"The same standards of cleanliness applied throughout the temporary measures. At no point was there an increased risk of infection.

"As part of our commitment to increase capacity, we have this week opened an additional ward with 27 beds and all of the ante-natal ward is now available exclusively to ante-natal patients."

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