Priority Questions - Infectious Diseases.

Thursday, 28 October 2004

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 591 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 309 Next Page Last Page

  5.  Mr. J. Breen  Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen   asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children  Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney   the action she intends to take to combat the spread of the MRSA superbug that appears to be rampant in hospitals here; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26548/04]

Ms Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  In 1999 the National Disease Surveillance Centre was asked to evaluate the problem of antimicrobial resistance, including MRSA, in Ireland and to formulate a strategy for the future. It gave detailed consideration to these issues and drew up a strategy for the control of the resistance in Ireland, which was launched on 19 June 2001. This report contains a wide range of detailed recommendations to address the issue, including a strategy to control the inappropriate use of antibiotics.

Approximately €16 million in funding has been made available to date, of which €4.5 million was [418]provided this year to health boards to implement the strategy.

A national committee comprised of a wide range of experts was established in 2002 to develop guidelines, protocols and strategies in regard to antimicrobial resistance. As part of its remit it provides advice to the regional SARI committees in each health board area which were established as a result of the strategy’s recommendations. Tackling this problem is a multi-faceted issue which will require action on a number of fronts. Implementation of the strategy is taking place on a phased basis.

Since 1 January this year, MRSA bacteraemia is included in the revised list of notifiable diseases of the infectious diseases regulations so hospitals are now legally required to report an incidence of the infection.

  4 o’clock

Mr. J. Breen: Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  I am disappointed with the Minister’s response. It is similar to a response given to a Priority Question on this matter in June 2001. Is the Minister aware that Ireland has the third highest incidence of infection from the MRSA bug in Europe? The incidence of the infection here is 42% compared with 44% in UK and 44% in Greece. The incidence of the infection here is the same level as that reported in Portugal, Malta, Italy and Croatia. Will the Minister explain why no statistics have been available since 2002 on the incidence of infection from the MRSA bug in this country? At that time it was indicated that 474 contracted the bug, but we have not been told how many people lost their lives as a result of contracting it. In the UK 7,000 to 8,000 people a year lose their lives as a result of contracting the MRSA bug. The UK authorities ask hospitals, in their own interests, to display the number of people who contracted the infection in their hospitals.

Has the Minister ever spoken to anyone who contracted the MRSA bug? If not, she is looking at a person who has. I contracted it in March and nearly lost my life. I have been told by my consultants that I will get back only 60% of the use of my right arm. The Minister trots out the same reply——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  A question, please, Deputy.

Mr. J. Breen: Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  The Ceann Comhairle is a doctor and he will be aware of what I have suffered. He knows about the MRSA bug.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I am here in my capacity as Ceann Comhairle and the Deputy must ask a question.

Mr. J. Breen: Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  What measures will the Minister put in place? She should not trot out the same answer that the former Minister, Deputy Martin, gave in 2001, as she has done. I have with me a copy of Deputy Martin’s response. Is the Minister aware that a survey shows that in hospitals this [419]year, 55% of doctors did not wash their hands between seeing patients, 35% changed their white coats only once per week and 9% wore gloves only when they were examining patients.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy should ask a question.

Mr. J. Breen: Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  I suffered from the MRSA bug. As I stated in the Chamber when the Minister was appointed, I waited for 17 hours in a hospital in the west to get an antibiotic to save my life. Is this a health service of which we can be proud? We have ploughed money into it and have got nothing back. We have abused money.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Will the Deputy allow the Minister time to answer his question? We are running out of time rapidly.

Ms Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I am genuinely sorry that Deputy James Breen had this experience. I was not aware of it. As I am sure he knows, the bacterium lives in about 33% of normal, healthy people. It lives harmlessly on the skin and in the nose of approximately one in every three people in the country. It causes problems when it gets the opportunity to enter the body. The Deputy is correct that the most effective way of dealing with it is hand hygiene. It seems incredible but we had to issue guidelines on hand hygiene recently. When I saw this in my briefing note, I had to check whether it was correct. The guidelines are for those who work in health care settings and equally to those visiting patients that suffer from the bacterium. The chief medical officer, to whom I spoke before Question Time, said to me that the most practical and sensible thing we can do to stop the spread of the bacteria in a health setting in which people are particularly vulnerable and sick is to encourage hand hygiene and the washing of hands. The guidelines are intended to achieve this and money is being made available to the different regions with a view to implementing best practice in this area.

Mr. J. Breen: Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  Can I ask the Minister one question? I will be her guinea pig.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The six minutes allowed for this question have concluded.

Mr. J. Breen: Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  I will be her guinea pig in an investigation into how I contracted the MRSA bug.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I call Question No. 6——

Mr. J. Breen: Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  Will she carry out the investigation into how I contracted MRSA?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  —in the name of Deputy Burton.

[420]Mr. J. Breen: Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  I will be her guinea pig because I nearly lost my life.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The Deputy will have to find another way of raising the matter.

Mr. J. Breen: Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  I nearly lost my life because of this bug. When will the Minister——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The six minutes allowed for the question have concluded.

Mr. J. Breen: Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  —carry out an investigation? I will be her guinea pig in an investigation——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy James Breen——

Mr. J. Breen: Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  ——into why I contracted the disease.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  In fairness to other Deputies who have submitted questions——

Mr. J. Breen: Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  I am asking the Minister a question.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  —they are entitled to have answers from the Tánaiste.

Mr. J. Breen: Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  I will be her guinea pig. Will she carry out an investigation?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Will the Deputy resume his seat?

Mr. J. Breen: Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  It nearly cost me my life.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Deputy James Breen——

Mr. J. Breen: Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  Can the Minister defend that?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Will the Deputy resume his seat?

Mr. J. Breen: Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  Will the Minister have an investigation carried out?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  Will the Deputy resume his seat?

Mr. J. Breen: Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  I will resume my seat when-——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  There are other Deputies in the House who are entitled to have their questions answered.

Mr. J. Breen: Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  Will the Minister answer my question?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  The time for the question has long since concluded.

Mr. J. Breen: Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  Will the Minister answer my question?

[421]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  I have called Question No. 6 in the name of Deputy Burton.

Mr. J. Breen: Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  The Minister should answer the question.

Ms Harney: Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  I assure the Deputy that if he makes available to me in private the details of his case, with which I am not familiar, I will certainly examine it. If he contacts me in my office, I will certainly look into the matter, if I can.

Mr. J. Breen: Information on James Breen  Zoom on James Breen  I thank the Minister.


Last Updated: 04/11/2010 11:12:15 First Page Previous Page Page of 309 Next Page Last Page