THE overcrowding situation in hospitals across Ireland is making it impossible to control and prevent the spread of superbugs, a Cork GP has warned.
There were 41 new cases of Carbapenemase-Producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE), a superbug that is resistant to most or all antibiotics, in Cork hospitals last year.
There were 537 cases of CPE nationally in 2018, up from 435 in 2017 and just 282 in 2016.
“The rise in CPE is certainly concerning and we’re seeing it take hold a bit in hospitals,” said Cork GP Dr John Sheehan.
“With overcrowding, people on trolleys and so on, it makes it a lot easier for bugs to spread.
“It’s very hard to put in normal infection control measures when you look at the state of the current situation within the health service,” he added. “All the normal infection control measures such as isolation and separation from vulnerable patients are impossible to implement if you have a hugely overcrowded A&E where all the patients are on top of one another.”
Dr Sheehan said that this lack of ability to implement infection control measures is concerning patients.
“People are concerned that they’ll pick something up and actually get worse rather than better, which isn’t what you want when someone goes to hospital. The overuse of antibiotics in all sectors whether it be primary care or secondary has led to the development of some of these superbugs,” he explained.
“It’s only now that we’re beginning to try to manage it in a better way.”
Dr Sheehan warned of a further rise in CPE until the health service gets a better grip on it, and called for a joint approach of greater infection control measures and antibiotic research to combat it.
CPE is carried in the bowel and can cause bloodstream infection in people who are vulnerable, such as the elderly and those with low immunity.