Killer superbug on the rise in hospitals facing trolley crisis
As many as 30 patients a month are catching the potentially lethal MRSA superbug and related infections in our hospitals, figures reveal.
The bug is particularly dangerous for patients who have weakened defences due to illness or age.
The scale of the threat has emerged in an analysis by the HSE of new cases of staphylococcus aureus bloodstream infection - mostly MRSA - contracted in hospitals between January 2017 and June 2018.
The news comes as hospitals are braced for another winter of overcrowding, which doctors warn will result in record numbers of patients languishing on trolleys.
MRSA is difficult to combat because it has developed a resistance to some commonly -used antibiotics.
The bacterium that causes MRSA is also responsible for another infection, MSSA, which produces the same symptoms but is easier to treat because it is not resistant to the antibiotic methicillin.
MRSA contributes to the deaths of several patients each year. Last year, a rise in cases was recorded for the first time in a decade.
The report warned that, over the past 12 months, St Vincent's and St James's hospitals in Dublin - among the worst hit by the trolley crisis - had rates of infection that were above the upper control limit. The hospitals did not respond to questions asking why they were failing to control the infection and what efforts were being made to reduce the risk to patients.
MRSA can exist harmlessly on the skin but can be fatal if it infects a patient who is already ill or weak.
Infections happen when MRSA enters the bloodstream, often via surgical wounds or where a catheter or needle is inserted.
Measures that can reduce the risk of infection include handwashing by staff, patients and visitors, the provision of proper isolation facilities for infected patients and better use of antibiotics.
The report also revealed that several hospitals were tackling worrying rates of the gut superbug C difficile. Between January 2017 and June this year an average of 66 inpatients a month contracted the bug.