Hospital clean-up example to others

STEPHEN PULLINGER Earlier this year it was a hospital in crisis, announcing to the world that an out-of-control superbug had contributed to the deaths of 17 people in a matter of three months.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

Earlier this year it was a hospital in crisis, announcing to the world that an out-of-control superbug had contributed to the deaths of 17 people in a matter of three months.

However, after a £1m-plus cleaning blitz and a tough new regimen - the type of which old-style matrons would certainly approve - Gorleston's James Paget University Hospital (JPH) has become a shining example to the rest of the region's hospitals in infection control.

More than 10 other hospitals have already sought the advice of JPH staff in how to control the latest superbug threat, clostridium difficile (C-diff), while director of nursing and patient services Nick Coveney has given a presentation on the measures they have implemented to the government's Health Protection Agency.

He said: "It is the short time we have taken to turn the situation around that has been attracting the interest.

"Where other hospitals have experienced outbreaks it has tended to take them longer to bring things under control. Hospitals from all over the Midlands have been in touch, and someone from Bedford hospital is due to ring me today."

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After recording 161 cases of C-diff from January to March - twice the number expected - the JPH noted only seven cases in July, one of the lowest rates in hospitals nationally.

Significantly, there were also no cases recorded of the virulent 027 strain of the bug, which can cause life-threatening complications, and which had led to the crisis earlier in the year.

Mr Coveney said: "As soon as we knew we were dealing with the hyper-toxic, hyper-virulent 027 strain, we implemented some extremely robust control methods straightaway. We spent in excess of £1m on new cleaning equipment and also employed 39 extra part-time cleaners."

They had also introduced a quarantine policy, isolating patients who arrived with or developed diarrhoea even before tests could show whether they had C-diff.

As part of this policy, they had set up a special isolation ward and also generally reduced the number of beds in bays from six to four to reduce the chance of cross-infection.

Mr Coveney said there had also been a fundamental change in prescription policy, in the hospital and by GPs outside, reducing the use of certain antibiotics that make patients vulnerable to developing C-diff.

The hospital had also sought to heighten awareness of the importance of hand-washing in wards affected by C-diff as alcohol gel, while effective against MRSA, did not kill C-diff spores.

Mr Coveney said: "Attention to detail has also been important. You have to check things are being done. For example, we have regular ward checks on hand-washing to ensure there is at least 90pc compliance."

While recognising the tremendous efforts of staff in combating C-diff, he stressed that the distressing impact of the bug on patients and relatives should not be forgotten.

"We continue to try to work with them to do the best we can," he said.

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