Assurances sought over superbug outbreak in Tallaght Hospital

Hospital declines to say how many patients, wards affected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria

CRE bacteria does not  usually pose a risk for healthy people but can be problematic for people with compromised immune systems. Photograph: Getty Images

CRE bacteria does not usually pose a risk for healthy people but can be problematic for people with compromised immune systems. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The State’s health watchdog has sought assurances from Tallaght Hospital over its management of an outbreak of a potentially lethal superbug.

The Health Information and Quality Authority says it has written to the hospital to ensure the outbreak of antibiotic-resistant bacteria was being managed in line with best practice. Hiqa asked whether the hospital had contacted the national taskforce on healthcare infections and antimicrobial resistance and asked it to take community services into consideration in its response.

“The hospital has assured us that it is managing the current outbreak,” a Hiqa spokeswoman said.

Tallaght has declined to say how many patients or wards have been affected by the outbreak of Carbapenem Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) and the public learned of the problem only when it was reported in the media.

Dr Jim Gray, an emergency department consultant at Tallaght, says at-risk patients should have been advised last August to seek alternative arrangements and to avoid the hospital in order to help control the outbreak.

Visiting restrictions

The hospital has banned visits by children and limited patients to just one visitor in order to ease pressures caused by the outbreak.

Hiqa, in a report published earlier this year, was highly critical of the HSE and local response to a similar outbreak at University Hospital Limerick. It expressed concerns over the lack of supports for the hospital to deal with the issue and the failure of the HSE to proactively identify a response to the risk posed.

CRE is a family of bacteria which can cause infection and are difficult, though not impossible, to treat. They don’t usually pose a risk for healthy people but can be problematic for people with compromised immune systems.

CRE germs are usually spread person to person through contact with infected people, particularly contact with wounds or stool. They can cause infections when they enter the body, often through medical devices such as ventilators, catheters, or wounds caused by injury or surgery.