Hospitals are facing double threat of superbugs and flu
The number of hospital patients who have tested positive for a potentially lethal superbug has soared this year.
A new report shows 401 patients were found to have the CPE superbug between January and November, compared to 282 over the same 11 months last year.
Four of the cases were in children's hospitals.
Of the 401 patients, fewer than 10 had the bacteria in their bloodstream, which is the most serious form of infection.
If the bacteria is in the gut it is normally harmless.
It is not known if any patient died of the infection.
The report of the National Public Health Emergency Team on CPE showed the highest number were in the University Limerick Hospital Group (50) and the Saolta Hospital Group (48).
There were 34 cases of the superbug in the Royal College of Surgeons Hospital Group.
The team said that in 2018 it is planned to improve screening for the bug to make sure the risk to patients was reduced.
The extent of this superbug threat has emerged as hospitals look set to have to battle a rise in cases of the flu in the coming weeks.
Flu cases are rising with the spread of a number of strains including the A(H3N2) form, which led to widespread infection during the last Australian winter.
More patients are expected to be struck with the flu in the coming weeks due to increased travel and more social gatherings.
Hospitals across the country have dramatically wound down activity for the next two weeks which should allow A&E departments to cope an influx of flu patients and a post-Christmas surge.
Cork University Hospital, which has a large waiting list, is to stop all waiting list surgery for two weeks until January 8.
It had originally planned to reduce theatre activity for three weeks, but this was opposed by surgeons.
Waiting lists nationally are now at over 680,000.
The HSE said it hopes to reduce the waiting time for surgery or an outpatient appointment to no more than 15 months next year.
However, it failed to deliver on the same pledge in 2017.