Hospital installs copper handles to fight MRSA
Published 13/01/2010 | 05:00
A private hospital in the midlands has become the first in the world to install copper doorknobs in a bid to reduce potentially lethal superbugs such as MRSA.
St Francis's Private Hospital, a 140-bed facility in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, has fitted more than 100 copper doorknobs to protect its patients.
General manager Noeleen Sheridan said yesterday she was spurred to act on foot of research carried out at University Hospital Birmingham. The study showed that copper on surfaces such as taps, toilet seats and door pushplaces could reduce contamination by 90-100pc.
Professor Tom Elliott, deputy medical director of University Hospital Birmingham, is overseeing clinical trials on the use of copper in reducing some hospital-acquired infections.
Laboratory research has shown that MRSA and Clostridium difficile microbes die much more quickly on contact with copper-based surfaces compared with materials like stainless steel which are usually found in hospitals.
Ms Sheridan said: "We don't have many cases of MRSA here but we also have a nursing home, St Clair's, and it is virtually impossible not to have a nursing home without some infection."
She had approached a local firm Copper International, also based in Mullingar, to install the copper knobs at the end of last year and the work is now almost complete.
"It is estimated that 80pc of infections are spread by touch, so keeping surfaces like door handles as germ-free as possible will impact on the spread of infection.
"Our decision to specify anti-microbial copper products is based on this conviction, and the compelling evidence from the Birmingham clinical trial."
The cost was marginally higher than installing knobs made from more standard materials, she added.
Copper is an extra line of defence and can be used along with essential measures such as frequent handwashing by patients and staff, cleaning of surfaces and isolation of those who have an infection.
There were 191 reported cases of MRSA in hospitals nationwide in the first six months of last year -- 100 of these from January to March.
Asked if the Health Service Executive (HSE) would consider replacing knobs and other surfaces with copper a spokesman said: "Any new health technology must be carefully assessed in relation to its safety, costs and benefits.
"The HSE Healthcare Acquired Infection Governance Group considers innovative technologies and makes recommendation to the HSE. It will consider the merits of this particular innovation in due course."