Dáil Éireann - Volume 637 - 27 June, 2007
Written Answers. - Infectious Diseases.
Deputy Terence Flanagan Deputy Terence Flanagan
Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health and Children further to comments (details supplied) the immediate action she will take to stop the spread of hospital infections such as MRSA; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17732/07]
Deputy James Reilly Deputy James Reilly
Deputy James Reilly asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of cases of MRSA in each of the past five years; the number of deaths from MRSA that have occurred in each of the past five years; the liabilities that have arisen for the State out of both infections and deaths from MRSA; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17480/07]
Deputy Kathleen Lynch Deputy Kathleen Lynch
Deputy Kathleen Lynch asked the Minister for Health and Children the figures in respect of the number of cases of MRSA in each of the past three years and to date in 2007; the number of fatalities attributable to MRSA; the steps being taken to reduce the incidence of MRSA; the measures to improve facilities and tackle overcrowding in hospitals that have been made to deal with MRSA; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [17591/07]
Deputy Alan Shatter Deputy Alan Shatter
Deputy Alan Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children the action she proposes to take to eliminate MRSA from hospitals here. [17482/07]
Deputy Mary Harney Deputy Mary Harney
Deputy Mary Harney: I propose to take Questions Nos. 126, 160, 183 and 185 together.
I share the public concern in relation to Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). Tackling Healthcare Associated Infections (HCAIs) including MRSA is a priority for the Government and for the Health Service Executive (HSE). The HSE recently launched its ‘Say No to Infection’ campaign and as a result of this a new HCAI Governance Group was established. This Group will manage the HSEs approach to tackling HCAIs including MRSA and is responsible for reducing infection levels in Ireland’s healthcare facilities. Over the next three to five years the Group aims to reduce HCAIs by 20%, MRSA infections by 30% and antibiotic consumption by 20%.
The HSE has clear hygiene and infection control standards, has undertaken initiatives on reducing antibiotic consumption and education of the public and of health professionals, including a TV and media campaign. In addition, the HSE is currently appointing a number of new infection  control nurses, surveillance scientists and antibiotic pharmacists. These staff will strengthen specialist support for infection control and facilitate the development of the national surveillance system. I have also instructed the HSE that designated private beds should be used where isolation facilities are required for patients who contract a HCAI or MRSA.
MRSA is not a notifiable disease but the Health Protection Surveillance Centre of the HSE collects data on MRSA. The data is collected on the first episode of blood stream infection per patient per quarter. This system shows that there were 445 cases in 2002, 480 cases in 2003, 553 cases in 2004, 592 cases in 2005 and 588 cases in 2006. There are no figures available to date in relation to 2007.
It is not possible to identify the number of fatalities attributable directly or solely to MRSA as most cases involve significant co-morbidity factors. The State Claims Agency is dealing with a number of claims against the State which involve an element relating to MRSA. However, the matter of liability in such cases has yet to be established. In relation to the issue of overcrowding in hospitals, focused efforts under the Winter initiative scheme have achieved a reduction in the numbers of patients waiting for admission on trolleys in A&E and a reduction in the time those patients spend waiting. Admission lounges have been put in place in a number of hospitals to ensure that patients are treated with dignity while awaiting admission.
A number of new A&E Departments commissioned in 2005/06 have provision for minor injury clinics, including Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, Cork University Hospital, St. Vincent’s Hospital and St. James’s Hospital. In 2006, over 1,000 additional extended care places were provided through privately contracted arrangements. In relation to 2007, the HSE has developed proposals to contract a further 450 beds in private nursing homes throughout the country. There are also proposals for an additional 450 beds within the public system. Additional home-care packages have been put in place to facilitate discharge from hospital to the patient’s own home. It is important that people do not remain in hospital any longer than is medically necessary.
While accepting that not all HCAIs are preventable, I am satisfied that significant steps are being taken to reduce the rates of infection and to treat them promptly when they occur. The Department of Health and Children will be monitoring and evaluating the progress being made by the HSE in the management of this issue so that patients can be assured that in the future the risk of contracting an infection will be reduced to the minimum level possible.
Question No. 127 answered with Question No. 96.
 Question No. 128 answered with Question No. 89.
Dáil Éireann 637 Written Answers. Infectious Diseases.