Wednesday 13 November 2019

Crack in medical equipment responsible for bug threat at children's hospital

A ‘crack’ in medical equipment used on children in a hospital is responsible for their risk of contracting a bug which could lead to blood or kidney infections.

Speaking earlier today, Dr Colin Costigan, the clinical director for Dublin’s three children’s hospitals, said they had been aware since July 6 that there was a problem.

Dr Costigan said the problem was picked up on July 6 at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin when routine checks on medical equipment were being conducted.

“There may have been a small crack inside in the scope that allowed the bug to survive despite the routine sterilisation process,” the clinical director said.

“We decommissioned all the colonoscopes, and checked all the washing equipment.

“And it wasn’t until the tenth of July that we had isolated down to one particular colonoscope that was the source of the problem and that took about ten days or whatever to find all of the cases that used.”

When asked on RTE’s Morning Ireland why it took more than two weeks to notify the family of the children affected, Dr Costigan said records had to be examined first.

“Basically it’s a process of going back to the chart and documenting the record number of the scope with the record number of the child.

“And we certainly didn’t want to be informing or misinforming the people who had used a scope that was completely clean and unaffected.”

The clinical director said they did not believe a helpline was necessary.

“We don’t think a helpline is necessary

“We were working our way through people – we contacted 15 out of 18 people when the story hit the media yesterday.

“Basically, we had explained everything to the families and we’re sending out a kit with stool collection kits

“We hope to be able to give a negative result to these families in the next week or two.”

Dr Costigan said the equipment was not too old and was not aware of similar incidents occurring before in the children’s hospitals.

He also said there will be some impact on patients waiting for colonoscopies at present – but doesn’t believe it will lead to long-term problems.

“There will be a temporary blip but we hop to make that back up in the next couple of months,” he said.

The parents of the children, who attended the hospital between May 17 and July 5 for colonoscopy exams of the bowel, are only now being contacted and asked to bring the youngsters back to be treated with antibiotics.

The bug, known as ESBL, can cause infection and lead to more illness for young people whose defences are already weakened due to some other condition.

It can be treated by antibiotics but the same drugs can also encourage the bug to grow in the bowel again.

A spokesman for the hospital insisted: "There is no immediate impact on children's health."

However, one of the anxious parents, Ann Doyle, of Ashford Co Wicklow, whose son Jake is among the children at risk, spoke of her concerns last night.

She said: "I cannot understand why it has taken so long to contact us.

"It makes me wonder about the level of infection control in Crumlin. These children already have weakened immune systems and should not have to cope with this."

Doctors discovered the bug in a crack in one of the endoscopes used on the children on July 6 but are only tracing the families now. It is understood that around 15 of the 18 families involved have now been contacted and asked to have their children tested. Some of the families are on holiday and have yet to learn about the alert.

In a statement released by the hospital, a spokesman confirmed that the bug was discovered on a colonoscope on July 6. The statement added: "The hospital's microbiologist confirmed on July 10 that the problem affected only one single colonoscope.

"Patient tracing immediately commenced in order to identify the children who had colonoscopies using this particular scope between the dates of May 17 and July 5.

"There are three remaining families who have not been contacted yet because they have not answered their phone."

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