Disease Surveillance Centre Says Every Hospital in Ireland Needs an Active Aggressive Infection Control Policy to Combat Hospital Acquired Infections and Deaths

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Hospital acquired infection results in increased complications and mortality rates, extra beds days, and additional costs for hospitals and health boards. Every hospital in Ireland needs an active aggressive infection control policy to combat these infections according to the National Disease Surveillance Centre (NDSC).

The NDSC has issued this statement in the wake of the UK National Audit Office report entitled The Management and Control of Hospital Acquired Infection in Acute NHS Trusts in England. The report says that every year 100,000 infections are acquired in English hospitals costing the NHS £1 billion according to a study of 219 acute hospital trusts. The report also revealed that 5,000 patients die from hospital acquired infections every year and these infections are implicated in the deaths of another 15,000.

"We have a comparable problem here in Irish hospitals. Infection can spread from patient to patient or from hospital personnel to patient and usually occur in the respiratory, urinary and digestive tracts and in open wounds. Infections are often acquired by 'at risk' patients in intensive care units, surgical wards and by patients who are already immunosuppressed (such as patients on renal dialysis or on chemotherapy). When a patient acquires a hospital infection, they have to stay an extra four days in hospital on average. In addition to the distress caused to the patients and the increased mortality risk, this represents a significant cost to the health services." said Dr Edmond Smyth, Chairman of the NDSC Scientific Advisory Committee and Consultant Microbiologist, Beaumont Hospital

"It is important to emphasise that not all of these infections can be prevented but current evidence shows that a well-organised infection control programs can reduce the number by one-third. Every hospital needs access to such a service, which normally comprises an Infection Control Doctor, Infection Control Nurse and secretarial support. The number of personnel in such a team reflects the size and type of hospital. Currently such services are not operational in all Irish hospitals because of resourcing and staffing issues. Other issues such as patient staff ratios, the lack of facilities for isolating patients and hand-washing also need to be addressed. In addition to improving the overall quality of patient care, the implementation of such a service is cost effective." said Dr Olive Murphy, Consultant Microbiologist, Bon Secours Hospital Cork.

The Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) of the NDSC has undertaken to develop principles in relation to infection control in hospitals. The SAC is a multidisciplinary committee comprising representatives from the veterinary, pathology, nursing dental, pediatric, agriculture and pharmaeconomic professions. The committee also comprises a GP and public health representative and representatives from the Food Safety Authority, Consumers Association and pharmaceutical industry.

The National Disease Surveillance Centre (NDSC) is Ireland's leading specialist centre for communicable disease surveillance. The Centre was set up in 1997 in Dublin conjointly by Ireland's eight Health Boards and with the approval of the Minister for Health and Children. The aim of the NSDC is to improve the health of the Irish population by the collation, interpretation and provision of the best possible information on diseases including environment and safety hazards. This is achieved through surveillance and independent advice, epidemiological investigation, research and training.