MRSA in Ireland

In Ireland those who run the hospitals would rather you did not know how many people were being infected as a result of a hospital acquired infection.

Incredibly, journalists have been forced to use freedom of information legislation to prise the information from the hospitals and even then the picture is incomplete with some hospitals “unable” to provide any figures at all and with no national figures available on the death rate from MRSA or other “superbug” type infections.

The Health Service Executive has said it will now ask all Irish hospitals to publish data on the prevalence of the potentially fatal superbug MRSA on a regular basis. Armed with this, patients should have access to all the information they need in order to make the right choice of hospital to be treated in. People want to call upon their Aviva or other health insurer in times of serious need, when illness or accident strikes and not because they got infected with something at the hospital during treatment. The hospital should be the one place totally free of danger and hygiene issues.

The best estimates at the moment are that there are about 8000 patients per annum picking up an infection in hospital and of that number approximately 550 go on to acquire a more serious bloodstream infection.

A recent survey by the Irish Patients Association revealed that in 2003, Ireland recorded the highest number of MRSA cases in Europe . In that year, Ireland recorded 119 cases per million. This is over twice the rate of the next worst country, Portugal , with 46 cases per million. Other European countries with a big MRSA problem include the UK , Greece and France . The Dutch have reduced their infection rate to almost zero and are seen as a model of how to tackle the problem.

Ireland would seem to have been slower to recognise and react to the superbug threat than the UK and some of its other European neighbours but improved hygiene measures have been but in place and the new administration structure for the health service will see the different health boards operating in a much more co-ordinated manner than in the past and already there is a nationwide hygiene audit of all hospitals underway.

As with the other nations battling this problem, now that the genie is out of the bottle it may not be so easy to put it back in. The chronic over use of antibiotics has dramatically reduced the arsenal available for the fight. The systematic and long term decline in hospital resources, particularly in the area of hygiene, coupled with overcrowding will make it a very difficult problem to solve in the short or even medium term.

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