I propose to take Questions Nos. 7, 9, 27, 35, 36, 50, 56, 58, 65, 69, 72, 86, 94, 100, 107, 111, 123, 127, 137, 146, 152, 153, 158, 165 and 169 together.
I am pleased to inform the Deputies that MRSA rates are at a six year low and I would like to assure all Deputies that the management of health care associated infections, HCAIs, including MRSA, is a key patient safety issue for my Department and the Health Service Executive. A number of significant initiatives have been developed to address that important public health issue, including the HSE's national infection control plan, which was launched in 2007 and the aim of which was to reduce HCAIs and to target MRSA infection and antibiotic consumption. A national surveillance system was also established by the HSE to collect data and provide information to monitor HCAIs in our health system, along with the establishment of the clinical care programme for HCAIs.
With regard to the prevention and spread of MRSA, it should be noted that the number of cases of MRSA has decreased steadily.
Individual hospital MRSA rates are also collected and published - annually for 2006 and 2007 and quarterly from 2008 onwards. These results provide a good benchmark for the future to enable us to measure effectively the progress of each hospital on its performance in infection prevention and control. The data can be used by individual hospitals to monitor their progress in the control of healthcare associated infections and the Health Protection Surveillance Centre's regular reports allow for public assessment of that progress. It should be noted that this data does not allow direct comparison between individual hospitals as it does not take account of differences in patient populations, clinical services provided, inter-hospital patient transfers and other differences in activity between hospitals.