Deadly superbug costing University Hospital Limerick millions

Fifteen new cases involving bug detected in 2017

Fintan Walsh


Fintan Walsh

Deadly superbug costing University Hospital Limerick millions

Tony O'Brien: bug is an emerging threat to health

UNIVERSITY Hospital Limerick has spent €4 million over the past two years treating 60 patients with a potentially-lethal superbug. 

And it has been confirmed this week that the multi-drug resistant superbug CPE has been detected in 15 patients in Limerick, this year. 

This has been a “contributing factor” in at least three deaths in Dooradoyle since 2011.

CPE [Carbanpenemase-producing enterobacteriaceae] is a superbug with a high mortality rate of 50%, for those who are infected. The first ever detection in Ireland was at University Hospital Limerick in 2009, followed by its first outbreak in 2011.

In a memo sent to healthcare bosses nationwide, HSE director general Tony O’Brien described the superbug as “an emerging threat to health, particularly in healthcare settings”. 

And the UL Hospitals Group has confirmed that a “systematic review” of CPE-positive patients who have died since 2009, is currently underway.

New figures received by the Limerick Leader show that, since 2009, there have been 193 new detections in the Mid-West. 166 of these were within UL Hospitals — largely in UHL — and 27 detected in community settings, such as nursing homes.

In 2009, there were just two detections at UHL. So far this year, there have been 15 confirmed new cases. In 2016, there were 30 detections, a significant decrease on the rate in 2015 — 53.

In a HSE report, prepared by Dr Kevin Kelleher, UHL had to spend €5,000 per night on 13 patients in the first half of 2016, amounting to €361,000. In the first half of 2015, 27 patients cost €1.375m, at a cost of €2,902 per night.

It was also noted that it is “difficult to attract and retain experienced infection prevention and control staff — the frontline staff responsible for containing the outbreak.

In response to outbreaks of the superbug in recent years — mainly affecting UHL, Mayo and Tallaght hospitals — a national taskforce has been established to tackle the problem.

In the HSE report, it stated that, as seen in UHL, Mayo and Tallaght, the superbug needs to be addressed at all levels of healthcare. “It is clear that unless action takes place immediately, Ireland will almost certainly face a future where CPE will become endemic and inflict considerable morbidity, mortality and cost to the public and healthcare system.”

A spokesperson for the UL Hospitals Group that it is treating the management of the superbug “with the utmost seriousness” and that “antimicrobial resistance is one of the most serious challenges faced by health systems all over the world”.