A CORONER yesterday lashed infection control policies at a hospital where three patients died after contracting a superbug.
Dublin County Coroner Dr Kieran Geraghty said he had written to the manager of St Colmcille's Hospital in Loughlinstown, Co Dublin, but had got no reply.
Dr Geraghty was hearing inquests into the deaths of four patients from hospital acquired infections, three of whom contracted the infections at Loughlinstown.
Mrs Mary McDonald (87) of Berryfield Lane, Fassaroe, Bray, Co Wicklow, died at St Colmcille's hospital on June 1, 2007, after contracting the hospital superbug, Clostridium Difficile, otherwise known as C Diff.
Mrs Bridie O'Brien (86) of Beechroad, Bray died of a sudden cardiac event due to heart disease with C Diff infection as a contributory cause and Mr James Bolger (86) died of bronchial pneumonia on February 27, having testing positive for the superbug MRSA the day before. Both died at Loughlinstown hospital.
The court heard that Loughlinstown hospital has no designated infection control team or consultant microbiologist and that just one nurse, Kumar Nari, who has been at the hospital for a year-and-a-half, is in charge of infection control policy at the hospital.
Mrs McDonald was admitted to Loughlinstown hospital on May 11 with a chest infection and her x-ray showed signs of congestive cardiac failure complicated by pneumonia.
She was commenced on a course of antibiotics and her condition improved. But she developed renal problems and on May 23 she had a relapse chest infection and with treatment with antibiotics, she improved again.
However, on May 29, Mrs McDonald was diagnosed with C Diff and over the next two days her condition dramatically deteriorated and she died on June 1.
Consultant physician and geriatrician Dr Morgan Crowe, who treated Mrs McDonald in hospital, told Dublin County Coroner's Court yesterday that Mrs McDonald would possibly be alive if she hadn't contracted C Diff.
Coroner Dr Kieran Geraghty returned a verdict of death by hospital acquired infection in the case of Mrs McDonald.
Verdicts of death by natural causes were returned in the cases of Mrs O'Brien and Mr Bolger.
Dr Geraghty expressed concern at the number of outbreaks of C Diff at Loughlinstown hospital and questioned Dr Crowe as to the hospital's existing infection control policy.
"Mrs McDonald was ill, but she might have gone home but for the C Diff infection," the coroner told the court.
"The problem is that the Clostridium Difficile spores are in the hospital and something must be done about it," he said.
"To address the issue of hospital acquired infection you need a comprehensive hospital policy and the expertise and facilities to implement that policy," said Dr Crowe.
Speaking outside the court, the family of Mrs McDonald expressed their anger at existing infection control policy at Loughlinstown hospital.