HSE staff handed hygiene warning after outbreak of superbug at Regional Hospital

Mike Dwane

Reporter:

Mike Dwane

HEALTH workers in the Mid-West are being warned they could face disciplinary action if they don’t strictly observe the hand hygiene protocols that are in place to combat hospital infections.

HEALTH workers in the Mid-West are being warned they could face disciplinary action if they don’t strictly observe the hand hygiene protocols that are in place to combat hospital infections.

Advice issued by Bernard Gloster, integrated services area manager for the HSE Mid-West, cites that a “zero tolerance” approach will be taken with staff who don’t wash their hands. It follows an outbreak of the potentially lethal superbug KPC at the Regional Hospital.

Two of the seven patients affected by KPC have been sent home while one patient with the bug is seriously ill “as a consequence of their underlying medical condition”, the HSE stated.

A deep clean of the Regional Hospital has been completed and visiting restrictions remain in force as staff cope with the outbreak.

This is the first recorded outbreak of klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase in an Irish hospital. The bug is immune to many conventional antibiotics and it can prove fatal for people with underlying medical conditions. An outbreak in Brazil last year is believed to have contributed to the deaths of over 20 people.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s Mary Fogarty said last week that she was aware of concerns expressed by microbiologists that the hospital was not being regularly deep-cleaned and that the staffing moratorium as it relates to cleaning staff and overcrowding at the Regional Hospital made infections more likely.

In a circular to managerial staff this week, Mr Gloster said: “some have observed that our infection control problems are simply down to the environmental cleanliness or antibiotic prescribing methodologies or overcrowding and that hand hygiene is not a big issue”.

“I am satisfied, based on the best clinical advice, that hand hygiene amongst healthcare workers is a major positive factor in the control of infection and that laidback hand hygiene habits are a major negative factor in the lack of control of infection.

“In this regard, correspondence has already issued to some groups identifying the approach which management will take to blatant non-compliance with protocols. These include disciplinary action and/or notification to relevant professional registration bodies if warranted in any individual case,” Mr Gloster stated.

In the meantime, visits at the Regional are restricted to critically-ill patients only and during official visiting times only. Children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with chronic illnesses in particular are asked not to visit.

Outpatients, day care and other routine admissions are not affected by the restrictions.