Hospital screening keeps MRSA at bay

HINCHINGBROOKE Hospital is the safest in the East of England for eradicating MRSA infection. So far this year there have been just three cases of the serious bloodstream infection, thanks to rigorous screening of patients before admission - and the hospit

HINCHINGBROOKE Hospital is the safest in the East of England for eradicating MRSA infection.

So far this year there have been just three cases of the serious bloodstream infection, thanks to rigorous screening of patients before admission - and the hospital says one of the three should not be counted as Hinchingbrooke's responsibility.

Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus is harmless on the skin but can cause serious problems for sick people, such as hospital in-patients. There are many perfectly healthy carriers in the community and, although the antibiotic methicillin is no longer prescribed, resistant bacteria have caused deaths in the past.

One of the infected patients came to Hinchingbrooke for kidney treatment from Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, Dr Andreas Karas, who is in charge of infection control at the Huntingdon site, said. A second imported the infection from a residential home.

The third attended Hinchingbrooke A&E after contracting the bacteraemia following an operation at a London hospital. It is this one that should not be on Hinchingbrooke's record, said Liz Pointing, director of nursing.

The East of England Strategic Health Authority now has "Hinchingbrooke's name in lights - this time for the right reason," Sue Smith the hospital trust's chairman told last week's board meeting. "Hospital-acquired infection is a major issue for our patients, so this is very encouraging," she added.

Most Read

Although Hinchingbrooke has the lowest level of MRSA in the region, Dr Karas thought it would be tempting providence to say it was the safest. "The day you make that claim is the day you get hit," he told the board. "But other trusts are coming to us for advice."

Extensive screening has resulted in patients expecting elective surgery having their operations put off until their infection has been dealt with, helping to deliver the hospital's lowest-ever infection rate, Dr Karas said.

But over the last year, 63 patients had died at Hinchingbrooke after being infected with clostridium difficile, antibiotic-associated diarrhoea caused by drugs used to treat other conditions also killing benevolent bacteria in the patient's gut. The average age of those who died was 82.5 years, Dr Karas told the board.

The incidence of "c.diff" at Hinchingbrooke has been steadily declining, although the numbers have never been high compared with the rest of East Anglia, he added.

Numbers had been reduced by changing the antibiotics prescribed for elderly patients, helped by a £300,000 grant used to buy new macerators to deal with patients' effluent and to install en suite facilities in wards. The hospital is in line for a further performance-related £250,000, a extending the range of en suite facilities is integral to the hospital's plans for refurbishment of the rest of the wards.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter