Hospitals get €20m a year to battle lethal superbug as threat to patients increases

Hospitals are to be given €20m a year to try to control a lethal superbug which is posing a growing threat for patients.

The three-year plan is targeted at CPE, which is difficult to treat because it is resistant to so many antibiotics.

CPE lives harmlessly in the gut but can be dangerous if it gets into the bloodstream – more than half of all patients who develop infections with CPE die directly or indirectly as a result.

It poses a particular risk to people with weakened immune systems and the elderly.

The bug was declared a public health emergency in October 2017 after cases grew to 433.

About 5,000 former hospital patients had to be informed last year they have shared space with someone who carried a potentially deadly superbug.

CPE was first reported here in 2009 and the numbers have increased in recent years.

The three-year plan will consist of four specific actions, including more screening in hospitals and deficits in infection prevention and control. It also aims to improve infrastructure deficits that make it difficult for hospitals to isolate patients to prevent spread.

Health Minister Simon Harris said: “CPE continues to be a significant threat to the Irish health system and if not contained will have significant implications for health care delivery.”

A recent inspection report from Hiqa blamed insufficient infection control and poor infrastructure for an outbreak of the infection involving 16 patients at Mercy Hospital in Cork.

The poor infrastructure included a lack of single rooms with en-suite facilities. The hospital had stepped up screening and surveillance since, which Hiqa commended.

The hospital said it wanted to assure the public the problem was being tackled. It plans to build 12 new single rooms.

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