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£180,000 bill to guard TB sufferer

The Republic of Ireland's health service has spent an estimated £180,000 to date on private security for a patient suffering from tuberculosis.

The patient, in his 30s, had previously evaded authorities at Galway University Hospital and made his way out.

But amid concerns for the safety of the general public and to contain the spread of the contagious disease, the hospital has been employing a private security firm to ensure the man remains safely in isolation.

The patient, who has been homeless in the past, has been at the hospital for the last 18 months and is being treated for an acute form of TB.

His condition deteriorated when he repeatedly left the hospital against the advice of doctors. When returned to UCHG, he had to be forcibly restrained in a separate room.

In a statement last year the HSE confirmed that "a person who has tuberculosis" was being detained in isolation under Section 38 of the Health Act 1947 because there was a risk of transmission to other people.

TB is nowadays curable, but it is a contagious illness with infection usually spread by microscopic droplets when a patient with the disease sneezes or coughs. If the infection is left untreated it can be very serious or fatal.

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In order to contain the potential spread of the infection, an employee of the private security firm is constantly on duty outside the man's hospital room. The patient is being accommodated in a top-floor room to ensure that the only exit is through the doorway.

A second room on the ward is also being used to facilitate cleaning and bed-changing by hospital staff.

Asked about the cost of hiring the private security firm, the HSE said it was not appropriate to comment on individual patients.

"The HSE has statutory duties to prevent and control certain conditions," it said.

"The extent and duration of measures required to prevent and control these conditions depends upon the patient, their response to treatment and who will be exposed to the patient.

"The rights of the patient are always respected and they are given full care and assistance. Occasionally, patients in hospital require security for the protection of themselves and other people. National guidelines for best practice in such situations are followed closely, with expert advice sought where appropriate."

The most up-to-date figures show TB remains a public-health threat in the State, costing the lives of seven people in 2008.

Several cases of multi-drug-resistant TB, where a patient is not responding to antibiotics, are also being diagnosed here.

A total of 470 cases of the disease were reported in 2008, with three of those multi-drug-resistant, according to the report of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

The Irish Thoracic Society has warned that TB has "not gone away".

In 2008, doctors at St James's Hospital in Dublin confirmed that a 25-year-old Lithuanian woman had to be treated with a cocktail of drugs and took 20 months to treat. They said the case presented a "daunting medical challenge" to find the right combinations of drugs.

One of the causes of rise in TB cases is due to immigrants from countries with high rates of the drug-resistant disease.

Source Irish Independent

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