Hospital superbug claims 18th victim

STEPHEN PULLINGER A Norfolk hospital has reported a further death linked to the superbug Clostridium difficile (C-diff) and a rise in the number of infected patients being treated in isolation.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

A Norfolk hospital has reported a further death linked to the superbug Clostridium difficile (C-diff) and a rise in the number of infected patients being treated in isolation.

It brings to 18 the number of deaths at the James Paget Hospital (JPH), Gorleston, linked to the bug since the start of December - another five people have had to undergo major bowel surgery.

During the past week the number of patients known to be currently infected with C-diff, which causes severe diarrhoea, has risen from 11 to 14.

A hospital spokesman said today that the figures were accurate for Friday and a fresh statement on C-diff would be released on Tuesday.

Staff began to focus on the C-diff problem in December when they detected a rise in cases and that patients were experiencing worse symptoms than the normal diarrhoea.

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Subsequent tests on bacteria cultures showed that the hospital was contending with the dangerous 027 strain of the bug, only identified four years ago in North America.

Following stories in national papers alleging dirty wards at the JPH, new chief executive Adrian Pennington has moved to reassure the public in the past week.

He said the hospital was very much “open for business” and patients could be confident in the JPH's record of cleanliness that had seen rates of the other superbug, MRSA, drop 50pc in the past 18 months.

He described the stories in three national papers as an “insult to hard-working cleaning staff”.

Since February, the hospital has invested an extra £400,000 in an intensive cleaning programme with bleach, known to kill the bug, and additional cleaners have been taken on.

Mr Pennington said: “In health terms, C-diff is relatively new and clearly a lot of clinical research is needed to understand how it works.

“As a result, nobody really knows how long outbreaks tend to last for, but we hope over the next few weeks to see an improvement.”

The JPH has emphasised the need for people in the hospital to wash with soap and water because the normal hand gel does not work against C-diff.

Visitors are also being asked to stick to visiting times with no more than two people at a bed at any time.

It is known that the use of certain types of antibiotic can make patients more vulnerable to C-diff and the hospital has been switching to alternatives.

From the start of the outbreak the hospital has been liaising with the Health Protection Agency and local agencies such as GPs.

t The deaths of eight people at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn were also linked to the bug last week.