Belfast Telegraph

Hospital probe launched as listeria causes death of elderly patient

By Lisa Smyth

A probe is under way to establish the source of an outbreak of a deadly infection in a health trust that has killed an elderly patient at Antrim Area Hospital.

The woman died at the hospital on Sunday morning after contracting listeria — and two other Northern Health & Social Care Trust patients are said to be responding to treatment after they also fell ill with the infection.

The second patient — who was also being treated at Antrim Area Hospital — was diagnosed with the infection on Monday evening. The third case, in a patient at the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine, was confirmed yesterday morning.

Olive MacLeod, director of nursing at the trust, said both patients are being treated with antibiotics and are recovering from the infection. “One of our patients who was frail and elderly died at the weekend,” she said.

“She was dying, but unfortunately she got this infection and it contributed to her death.”

Ms MacLeod said the trust has completed a review of its processes regarding the storage and handling of foods and it is content they are robust and safe.

She said it is likely the infection came from an external source, although she said she does not believe food brought into the hospitals by visitors is responsible for the outbreak.

The Public Health Agency and environmental health officers will examine the processes of external food suppliers to the trust this weekend. These include companies that supply food to all health trusts across Northern Ireland.

Jim Wells, deputy chair of the Stormont health committee, last night hit out at the Northern Health & Social Care Trust for failing to mention the death of a patient in a Press release on the outbreak issued yesterday.

His comments come just a week after a damning report into the handling of two outbreaks of pseudomonas in Northern Ireland, which claimed the lives of four babies. It criticised a lack of communication by health officials during the outbreaks at Altnagelvin Hospital and Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

Mr Wells said: “The Press release put out by the trust makes no mention of the fact that someone has died which, of course, is a crucially important detail.”

Listeria is an uncommon infection in the hospital setting — unlike MRSA or C difficile, it is not a hospital superbug.

It is usually food borne — most often in ready-to-eat refrigerated and processed foods such as chilled meats, soft cheeses, cold cuts of meat and smoked fish.

Healthy adults who contract listeria are likely to experience only mild infection causing symptoms such as diarrhoea. However, pregnant women and patients with pre-existing medical conditions, such as those in intensive care or immuno suppressed patients, are at greater risk.

Mr Wells said: “It is crucial that we identify the source of this infection as quickly as possible.”

Factfile

A spokeswoman from the Northern Trust said patients should:

  • Wash their hands before eating
  • Eat food as soon as it arrives
  • Dispose of leftovers immediately

She also asked that visitors not bring food to the hospital.

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