At the outset I would like to state that MRSA is at its lowest recorded level in six years.
Routine data is not available on deaths from hospital acquired infections (HCAIs); in certain cases such infections may be a contributing factor to a particular death but not the primary cause, hence the difficulty in giving definitive statistics on the issue. Prevention of HCAIs and infection of hospital patients with antimicrobial-resistant organisms (AMR) is a key patient safety and clinical quality initiative for the Irish health care service.The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI) / HSE Clinical Advisory Group on HCAIshas established a national clinical programme for the prevention and control of HCAIs and AMR. The overall aim of the programme is that every health care worker and all parts of the health care system recognise that the prevention and control of HCAI and AMR is a key element of clinical and non-clinical governance and that our health care systems have processes in place to ensure safe health care is reliable delivered irrespective of the health care setting.
The clinical programme's remit includes the development of national clinical guidelines, provision of patient and public information on HCAIs, campaigns on hand hygiene, hospital and community antibiotic prescribing, prevention of medical device related infections, inter-sectoral AMR control and the continuing development of bloodstream infection surveillance in conjunction with the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC).
Recent publication of 14 hospital hygiene inspection reports by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) under its National Infection Prevention and Control Standards indicate general satisfaction with hygiene compliance but underline improvements required in certain facilities.HIQA will conduct further inspections during 2013 in a subset of these facilities and the relevant hospitals will continue to be supported in implementing quality improvement plans to further comply with the Standards. Additional hospitals will also be inspected.
I am satisfied that the measures in place to control and prevent HCAIs and AMR in health facilities are yielding the required results (for example the drop of 55% in MRSA rates in the last six years) and that ongoing work programmes will continue to address this central challenge for all health service providers. At present, the Health and Information Quality Authority's remit does not extend to the private sector.Officials of my Department are currently working on the Licensing of Health Facilities Bill which will provide for a mandatory system of licensing for public and private health service providers.The legislative proposals are being prepared broadly in line with recommendations made in the Report of the Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance and are designed to improve patient safety by ensuring that healthcare providers do not operate below core standards which are applied in a consistent and systematic way.The intention is to have a proportionate system which has the confidence of the public.Standards and other requirements will be enforceable through inspection and imposition of sanctions as necessary.Licensing will be targeted at areas which are not currently subject to regulation.It is expected that outline proposals for the new system of licensing should be finalised in the near future.