Hospital winning super-bug battle

The Norfolk hospital where 18 people died of C-difficile has stemmed the impact of the superbug by spending more than £1m on extra cleaning.The highly virulent 027 strain of Clostridium Difficile (C-diff) which swept through the James Paget University Hospital (JPH) from December 2006 has been brought under control by using bleach - the only thing which kills the bug's spores - and employing more cleaners.

The Norfolk hospital where 18 people died of C-difficile has stemmed the impact of the superbug by spending more than £1m on extra cleaning.

The highly virulent 027 strain of Clostridium Difficile (C-diff) which swept through the James Paget University Hospital (JPH) from December 2006 has been brought under control by using bleach - the only thing which kills the bug's spores - and employing more cleaners.

The hospital now has 30 extra cleaning staff who were employed after the crisis came to light following the deaths of 18 people, with a further seven patients having to undergo major bowel surgery.

Hospital bosses yesterday revealed the success of the steps taken after the Health Protection Agency (HPA) gave the wards its seal of approval.

Last night health chiefs across the region said they were learning the lessons of the JPH outbreak as the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn revealed that it too had brought the infection under control.

The latest C-diff figures at the JPH show a marked drop in the numbers of new cases: down from 39 a month at the height of the outbreak to 12 patients admitted the hospital's isolation ward in the last seven weeks.

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Nick Coveney, JPH director of nursing and patient services, said the number of new cases was “extremely low” - lower than the infection rate of about 27 patients per month before the outbreak.

He said a stringent cleaning regime put in place to tackle the epidemic would stay.

“Mattresses used to be cleaned with soapy water. Now they are cleaned with bleach. But we are continuing to use bleach and will be replacing mattresses,” he said.

The isolation ward - created because there were not enough side rooms to put infected patients - will also remain in place.

But Mr Coveney added: “One of the problems is that there isn't a common pool of information across the country. Also the strains are changing so there are always new lessons to learn.”

More than £350,000 has been invested in 30 extra cleaning staff, with more being recruited. The hospital spent £600,000 on new easier-to-clean equipment, from bins to drip stands.

Meanwhile, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in King's Lynn, where eight people died of C-diff complications at the end of last year, reported yesterday that it too had got the infection under control as the East of England Strategic Health Authority's (SHA) C-diff team paid a visit.

QEH chief executive and chief nurse Gwyneth Wilson said the SHA team had been very impressed by the cleanliness of the wards.

But Prof Lynne Liebowitz, a microbiologist who is a world renowned expert in hospital acquired infections and who joined the QEH in 2005, said the over-prescription of certain kinds of antibiotics were the primary cause of C-diff infections, not dirty wards.

She said: “Cleaning is very important to hamper the spread, but the most common cause of C-diff infection is antibiotics. The most important thing is to decrease their use.

“Cleaning is of value as well because C-diff spores are very difficult to get rid of. We need to do everything we can,” she added.

There have been no cases of the 027 strain at The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (N&N), which has some of the lowest C-diff rates in the county, or West Suffolk Hospital, which said it had so far not had a problem, reducing the number of C-diff infections by 15 pc last year.

Meanwhile measures taken at the JPH like reducing the number of beds in bays from six to four are also being rolled out throughout the hospital after staff found the advantages of more space made cleaning and treatment easier to carry out.

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