Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Department failing to keep accurate figures for MRSA

7 February, 2005

Sinn Féin health spokesperson, Cllr John O'Dowd MLA, has criticised the NIO health minister Angela Smith over her failure to ensure that the Department of health maintains an accurate figures for the number of patients contracting hospital acquired infections.

Cllr O'Dowd MLA said:

"I had recently asked the minister to provide me with details on the numbers of patients who had contracted hospital acquired infections, such as MRSA, and to provide details on the extent of the additional costs to the health service of treating patients who had contacted such infections. I was shocked to read Angela Smith's response which stated that there is no accurate estimate for the number of patients who have contracted MRSA or other such infections. Indeed, she also stated that at present 'it is not possible to estimate the cost to the health service of treating those who contract hospital acquired infections'.

"Given that figures released last year by the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre demonstrated that the MRSA superbug has played a part in 116 deaths in the Six Counties between 1997 and 2003 and that in 2003 alone, MRSA had contributed to the deaths of 30 patients in hospitals, this response from the NIO health minister is unsatisfactory. Furthermore, CDSC figures also show that based upon positive MRSA laboratory reports the level of infection has quadrupled between 1998 and November 2004.

"Angela Smith also referred to the fact that a strategy for the control and prevention of healthcare associated infections will be due out for consultation later this year. Rather than waiting for the outcome of that consultation, I believe that there are several steps which the health minister could implement immediately which would have the support of patients, professional hospital staff and trades unions.

These are:

· Stipulating and introducing minimum safe staffing levels to ensure effective hospital cleaning. It is a fact that more cleaners and more cleaning hours would lead to cleaner hospitals.

· Ensuring that cleaning services are be based on quality, not cost - which means an end to market testing and bringing cleaning services back in-house rather than contracting out to private agencies

· Giving hospital cleaners better pay and conditions, and ending the two-tier workforce in healthcare, and

· Providing hospital cleaners with up-to-date equipment and improved training, including on-going training on infection control.

"Prevention is better than cure. This is not about good or bad cleaners, it is about having enough people to do the job well and for Angela Smith to release the necessary finance to make this happen. No one wants to be treated, work, or visit friends and relatives in a dirty hospital. I would urge the minister to bring cleaning staff back in house and make them part of the infection control team, to give them proper training and then fairly reward them for a tough job that many people would run a mile from. That is the best way to deal with hospital infections." ENDS

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