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Lack of MRSA screening defended after pensioner's death
4:00am Friday 13th September 2013 in News
HOSPITAL chiefs have defended their decision not to routinely screen staff for MRSA – despite a pensioner dying weeks after contracting the killer bug from a doctor who was treating her.
Bosses at Southampton General Hospital say they will continue to follow national guidance meaning doctors and nurses are not regularly tested, even though all patients are screened on admission.
It’s a system slammed as “utterly ridiculous” by the grieving relatives of 75-year-old Grace Newman, who became seriously ill after contracting a rare form of the infection, having been admitted with breathing difficulties in March 2010.
The fact she had acquired the infection from a doctor was not discovered for a further nine months until a second patient being treated at the hospital became ill with the same strain and both cases were linked to the same member of staff.
‘Significant delay’ An inquest into Mrs Newman’s death heard how swabs were sent away to a lab but it was 17 days before it was confirmed she was suffering from a rare strain of MRSA known as PVL, during which time she was being treated with antibiotics that were no use.
Even after that, there was a “significant delay” in telling Mrs Newman’s family – including her husband Ron who was fighting cancer – that she had the illness, which can be quickly spread by air particles or touch, and they continued to visit unaware.
The hearing was told how the grandmother-of-five from Ellis Road, Thornhill, did however recover after receiving strong bacteria-fighting medication, but she was so weak she contracted pneumonia and died on May 21.
Recording a narrative verdict, coroner Keith Wiseman said Mrs Newman had acquired “a rare infection in unusual circumstances” in the hospital which had a significant adverse affect on her system and contributed to her death, which was listed on her death certificate as pneumonia.
Speaking after the hearing, Mrs Newman’s daughter Lorraine Edwards criticised the coroner’s failure to include the PVL MRSA on the death certificate.
She said: “The most important thing to me is that the death certificate reflects what my mum died from. As a family we feel strongly that PVL should feature as a factor.
“That means it is there and puts the hospital under pressure to put in place precautions to ensure it does not happen to another family. This is supposed to be a transparent process but it doesn’t feel like it to us.”
She also called for the hospital to review its “utterly ridiculous” procedures around lack of screening of staff, saying that patients needed to have confidence in those who were treating them.
Bosses at University Hospital Southampton said systems had changed in light of Mrs Newman’s case, which included the creation of an inhouse laboratory so that tests for the PVL strain of MRSA could be carried out and results would be available immediately.
However, there are no plans to change the screening process around staff as the Trust says it would be futile due to the way and speed at which MRSA can be transmitted.
Dr Michael Marsh, medical director, said: “This was an extremely difficult case for everyone involved and our thoughts and sympathies remain with Mrs Newman’s family following their sad loss.
“We will continue to offer them our full support with any remaining concerns they have.”
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