The Ulster Hospital has been forced to close one ward to new admissions following the outbreak of two separate stomach bugs. Three others that were closed on Tuesday reopened yesterday (July 20).
Patients are suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea due to the spread of Norovirus. This week, the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust also confirmed one case of the virulent 027 strain of the clostridium difficile bacterium (C. diff) has been identified in the hospital — the strain produces 20 times as much toxin as other strains. The Trust said there were seven C. diff cases in total within its area.
A spokesperson for the SEHSCT said: “The Trust is experiencing significant increases in bed pressures and the presence of Norovirus circulating in the South Eastern Trust area has added to this pressure.
“The Trust, in conjunction with the Public Health Agency is currently reviewing a small number of cases of C difficile identified within the South Eastern Trust area, these include both hospital and community cases.”
The Trust has implemented a range of actions, that include enhanced cleaning measures and restrictions on visitors to ensure risks to patients are minimised.
Norovirus is transmitted by food or water becoming contaminated by faeces, by person-to-person contact, by being carried in moisture in the air or by surfaces becoming contaminated.
One Castlereagh mother whose child was admitted to the hospital last year suggested the outbreak was connected to insufficient hygiene practices.
The woman, who did not wish to be named, said the intensive care unit was immaculate but not some of the other wards.
“The Ulster Hospital’s hygiene problems are well known and I am not surprised to hear wards have closed as a result of a virus that spreads because of bad hygiene practice.”
The spokesperson strongly rejected the suggestion and said the hospital’s “excellent” hygiene standards had been verified in an audit.
“The Trust regularly monitors the cleanliness of wards, patient equipment, antibiotic prescribing and compliance with hand hygiene. There is an ongoing programme of deep cleaning of wards in place.
“The Trust needs the support of patients/clients/carers and the public who may visit our hospitals and other healthcare facilities. We would ask that individuals visiting patients should avoid doing so if they have vomiting and diarrhoea, cold or flu symptoms.”
People attending A&E are asked to tell the staff if they have gastrointestinal symptoms. “This is extremely important,” the spokesperson added.
Visitors are asked to clean their hands before and after visits; have no more than two people per patient; and try to avoid bringing young children in.
North Down UUP councillor Marion Smith said: “The staff at the Ulster are doing their best and can only be supported by everyone in helping to fight this recent infection so I would urge everyone obey the rules.”