Widow dies from superbug at hospital

A PENSIONER is believed to be one of the first people to die from the superbug Clostridium difficile (C-diff) at a Suffolk hospital.

Lizzie Parry

A PENSIONER is believed to be one of the first people to die from the superbug Clostridium difficile (C-diff) at a Suffolk hospital.

Daphne Fairweather, of Cullingham Road, Ipswich, died at Ipswich Hospital in September 2007 after contracting the infection after routine surgery, an inquest has heard.

The hearing, held at Ipswich Police Station yesterday, was told Mrs Fairweather, 77, had undergone a necessary operation for bowel cancer at the hospital.


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Greater Suffolk coroner Dr Peter Dean said the widow, who had a history of medical problems, including angina and chest pain, encountered complications after the surgery on a tumour and suffered multiple organ failure.

“In the aftermath of the surgical procedure complications occurred and she sadly contracted C-diff,” he said.

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A statement by Dr Richard Kent, a microbiologist at Ipswich Hospital, which was read out at the inquest, revealed there had been “an unacceptably high” level of C-diff cases in July and August 2007.

But Dr Dean said Ipswich Hospital had “clearly looked into this matter”, detailing a number of measures taken by the hospital in the wake of Mrs Fairweather's death.

These included extra cleaning measures recently introduced, a review of antibiotic prescribing and a hand washing campaign as well as receiving advice from the Strategic Health Authority support team in November 2007 and March 2008.

Recording a verdict of death from C-diff, Dr Dean added: “They have put in place measures and are reducing the number of cases. They have responded to the problems, doing what they can to minimise C-diff any further.”

After the hearing, Jan Rowsell, a spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital, said: “We extend our sincere condolences to Mrs Fairweather's family.

“Since September 2007 we have opened Framlingham Ward a dedicated infection control isolation ward and put in place a wide range of measures to prevent C-diff.

“Due to the isolation ward we now have the highest possible standards of care by a dedicated team for patients who do contract C-diff.

“Patient safety is our highest priority and preventing infection is at the heart of this.”

Between April and October this year, Ipswich Hospital has recorded 94 cases of the potentially fatal superbug against a planned “ceiling” of 77 cases.

While it is common for C-diff to be a contributory cause of death, it is rare for it to be attributed the primary reason for a person's death.

“If people are very poorly C-diff is often a contributory cause of death, but for it to be a primary cause of death is very uncommon,” said Ms Rowsell.

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