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C difficile-related deaths up in Northern Ireland

Last Friday the General Registers Office (GRO) of Northern Ireland released provisional figures which showed that the interim figure of deaths linked to Clostridium difficile (C difficile) rose from 63 in 2006 to 77 last year.

The Northern Ireland Executive’s Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said he would take every action possible to help drive down the spread of infections in hospitals.

Following public concerns over the outbreak of C difficile in the Northern Trust, the minister announced £9 million investment in a range of measures designed to tackle healthcare-association infections. These included unannounced hygiene inspections, single rooms for new hospitals, targets to cut C difficile and MRSA, staff dress code, restrictions on hospital visiting and rapid response cleaning teams.

Mr McGimpsey said: “I fully acknowledge that the current outbreak of the virulent 027 strain of C difficile in the Northern Trust is of great concern to the public. That is why I announced an extensive range of measures aimed at fighting superbugs in our hospitals.

“It is clear that we can never fully eradicate infections such as MRSA and C diff. In the case of C difficile, around 30% of elderly people and some 3% of healthy young adults carry the bug. However, by following robust and stringent infection control measures it is possible to reduce the rates of infection.”

“We all have a part to play and it is by simple measures such as washing your hands, reporting any incidents of poor hygiene practise and obeying hospital visiting policies that we can all make a real difference.”

The minister set a target of reducing C difficile infection by 20% by March 2009.

Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety

Your comments:
(Terms and conditions apply)

“I work in the hospital and the biggest problem is demand for beds with the additional imposed 4 hourly DOH targets in rapid turn around of patients without putting additional resources on the ward” – Name and address supplied

“NO – I required removal of my colon and an ileostomy in order to survive a bout of C diff following knee replacement surgery; I am 60 yrs old and otherwise active and in good health. To my family, knowing that you reduced the death rate by 20% would be no comfort if I were among the 80%. We need to be extremely aggressive and educate the medical community in order to recognise incidence of C diff as early as possible. Perhaps early detection would have saved not only my life, but my colon!” – Ciel Meehan, Connecticut, US