Serious incident alert at Altnagelvin Hospital over 'superbug'
A surge in the number of cases of the C difficile 'superbug' has prompted the declaration of a "serious adverse incident" at Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry.
This year so far has seen 68 cases at the hospital, compared to 48 in the whole of last year.
The infection is a bacterial one that most commonly affects people on antibiotics.
The Western Trust which manages Altnagelvin had set a target of keeping the number of cases of C difficile to 45.
At a meeting of the Western Trust Board, Medical Director Dr Alan McKinney said that some of the recently reported cases had been caused by poor hand hygiene.
Trust chief executive Elaine Way said that it had been "good detective work" that had linked the poor hand hygiene to a number of cases.
A spokesman for the Western Trust said it monitored all instances of C difficile occurring in hospital outpatients.
The Trust said: "A large proportion of these infections arise in the community and are identified after admission.
"Where cases of C difficile are identified within the hospital all appropriate infection control measures are put in place.
"This gut infection is commonly related to the overuse of antibiotics and the use of gastric acid-removing drugs which are widely used to control indigestion."
The Trust added that controlling infection remained one of its top priorities.
It maintained: "The measures used include the application of international evidence-based care bundles, hand hygiene, aseptic non touch technique, equipment decontamination. control of antibiotics and a robust system to audit compliance.
"In addition there is an ongoing programme of staff education and provision of up-to-date guidelines and policies."
Meanwhile, extra staff have been brought in to cope with the high number of patients using Altnagelvin hospital's out-of-hours service over Easter.
Patients said they have found it difficult to get through over the holidays and most GP surgeries are still closed.
Dr Tom Black from the British Medical Association said the service is at "breaking point".
Dr Black said: "We've got the highest workload and the lowest funding, it's a system, that has been set up to break.
"The GP out-of-hours service does an awful lot of work and that has unfortunately seen an increase of 18% over the last five years.
"On a day like today in Derry you would expect anywhere between 300 and 500 calls which is an awful lot," Dr Black said.
A Western Trust spokesman admitted the service was under pressure.
"GP Out Of Hours Service in Altnagelvin is currently experiencing high demand as is to be expected on the fourth day of a bank holiday weekend."