Shortage of isolation rooms for MRSA patients

Declan Magee


Declan Magee

Letterkenny General Hospital has a shortage of isolation rooms for patients who have contracted the MRSA superbug in the hospital.

Letterkenny General Hospital has a shortage of isolation rooms for patients who have contracted the MRSA superbug in the hospital.

Information released by the Health Service Executive reveals that not all patients with MRSA at Letterkenny General Hospital are isolated “due to an insufficient number of rooms”.

National guidelines on control of MRSA say hospitals should have a minimum of one isolation room for every six to seven general acute beds, and at least one isolation room for every four to six critical care beds.

The information, which was released to a recent meeting of the HSE Regional Forum, details procedure and protocol in relation to patients who have contracted MRSA as the result of infection while in hospital.

Figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre show rates of MRSA at Letterkenny General Hospital have fallen significantly in recent years. The rate of 14.3 per cent for 2011 fell from 45.2 per cent in 2008. The national rate in 2011 was 24.1 per cent in 2011 while the rate in hospitals in the HSE north west area was 26.2 per cent.

Rosemary Cassidy of Donegal-based MRSA and Families Network, said she was very concerned that the hospital is not able to isolate all patients who contract MRSA. Mrs Cassidy’s husband, Raymond, contracted MRSA in Letterkenny General Hospital before he died in 1999. “I would be concerned that they don’t have more rooms. It is very, very important to have isolation for patients. If a patient with MRSA is in a ward with other patients, then they are at risk of getting it as well. They should be keeping a ward for patients with MRSA so that they are all treated together and are treated by the same staff together in the one area,” she said.

The HSE said management of patients with MRSA at the hospital follows the recommendations of the national guidelines on MRSA “in terms of attempted decolonisation of MRSA or treatment of infection”. Patients are re-screened on up to three occasions, and if tests remain negative they can be moved into an open bay. The HSE says patients should then be screened on a weekly basis while still in hospital and re-isolated if any of the weekly screenings is positive for MRSA.

At Sligo General Hospital the HSE says there is no particular number of beds or single rooms reserved for patients with MRSA. The HSE says, however, that “the requirement for placing patients in single rooms is prioritisied according to overall clinical needs”. “Patients with MRSA infection require specific treatment and are a priority for isolation,” the HSE said.

The information was released following a question from HSE regional forum member, Cllr Catherine Connolly, from Galway and details the protocol in dealing with patients who have contracted MRSA in nine regional hospitals in the HSE West.

The protocol for the Galway Roscommon Hospital group; Portiuncula Hospital; Mayo General Hospital; and the Mid West regional hospitals in Limerick, Enniss, Nenagh and St John’s Hospital Limerick is to isolate patients until three negative screenings have been recorded 72 hours apart.