Hospitals have been battling hospital-acquired outbreaks of coronavirus

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021 7:22am

By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter @CharGreenLDR

Hospitals in Greater Manchester, including in Oldham, have been battling hospital-acquired outbreaks of coronavirus.

Picking up a virus while being treated in hospital as a patient is termed a ‘nosocomial’ infection.

Most commonly, it’s used to refer to the superbug MRSA, but in 2020 it’s now a watchword for coronavirus within the health system.

According to data presented by the Northern Care Alliance (NCA), nosocomial cases have occurred at each of the four care organisations it encompasses; Bury, Oldham, Rochdale and Salford.

The statistics show that since November, Oldham’s care organisation has had the highest overall nosocomial Covid-19 infections, followed by Salford, then Bury. Rochdale’s care organisation has seen the fewest hospital-acquired cases.

All four care organisations have now produced rapid improvement plans which set out the priority actions needed to address the increase in nosocomial coronavirus infections.

Chief nursing officer Libby McManus told an NCA board meeting: “There is really good strong reliable work happening across our organisation on a daily basis to reduce nosocomial transmission and to ensure our patients are kept safe while in our care.

“We’ve seen each of the care organisations learn from each other around reliable practices.

“That said, I think there are still some challenges for us as an organisation who employs 20,000ish staff.

“Patient movement and placement is critical to reducing transmission. 

“So that’s a real challenge especially when the front door becomes more busy. 

“We have had high rates in both Salford and in Oldham and whilst Salford has managed to reduce the number and therefore the rate over time that is proving more difficult for Oldham.

“Oldham still has a number of transmissions occurring every week and we’re working really really hard to minimise those.”

She added that in ‘high-risk areas’ they are testing patients and staff more regularly, in some areas carrying out daily testing. 

The report for the January 25 meeting states that an Infection Prevention and Control group meets three times a week to progress the improvement plans and respond to Covid-19 infections.

The NCA recommends that patients are not moved within a hospital or community care setting until ‘at least’ two coronavirus test results are known for a patient.

Health chiefs say that a Covid-19 case is likely to be nosocomial when a patient tests positive at least eight days after being admitted.

And two or more cases of nosocomial coronavirus infections constitute an ‘outbreak’ within a health setting.

David Jago, chief officer at Oldham Cares, said they were making ‘good progress’ against the nosocomial improvement plan in Oldham.

“Stubbornly we’re seeing two cases on average coming through and that represents some of the challenges we’re having in terms of that capacity versus our demand for our beds at Oldham and where we try and accommodate our patients,” he said.

“On occasions that has caused nosocomial hospital-acquired infections and we’re looking at how we can restructure our wards to manage those better.

“We’ve also looked at where we can accommodate activity elsewhere within the cancer GM hub to try and free up additional capacity to manage flow better but also reduce that risk of hospital-acquired transmission.”

The report presented to a meeting of the NCA states that ‘nosocomial infections of Covid-19 appear to have stabilised, with cases showing a downward trend across most care organisations’.

However it warns that new, more contagious strains of the virus – such as the variant first detected in Kent – are also having an impact on hospital outbreaks.

“Although some care organisations have seen a reduction in nosocomial cases, outbreaks still remain a challenge, with an emerging picture of increased transmissibility in some areas,” it states.

“All main sites saw a reduction in nosocomial infection rates during December although outbreaks persist across all care organisations.”

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