Monday, October 09, 2006


Because of negligent failure to isolate at-risk patients and an amazing failure at asepsis

Wounded troops returning from Iraq have been linked by government scientists to outbreaks of a deadly superbug in National Health Service hospitals. Injured soldiers flown back to be treated on the NHS have been infected with a rare strain of Acinetobacter baumannii, a superbug resistant to antibiotics. At one hospital in Birmingham in 2003 the bacteria went on to infect 93 people, 91 of whom were civilians. Thirty-five died, although the hospital has not been able to establish whether the superbug was a contributory factor.

The revelation comes amid growing concerns about the treatment of wounded troops on NHS wards alongside civilian patients. It follows reports that a paratrooper, wounded in Afghanistan and treated at the hospital — Selly Oak in Birmingham — was allegedly threatened by a Muslim visitor.

Acinetobacter baumannii commonly inhabits soil and water and is associated with warmer climates such as the Middle East. It is resistant to most common antibiotics and, if left untreated, can lead to pneumonia, fever and septicemia. The bacterium has become a concern in the US army, where it has been identified in more than 240 military personnel since 2003, killing five.

The first case in a British soldier returning from Iraq has been disclosed by scientists from the government’s Health Protection Agency. In a survey of 30 NHS trusts that had received troops, they discovered a soldier at Selly Oak, which houses the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, had been infected with a strain of the bacterium known as “T”. Another British soldier infected with the superbug was admitted to the hospital in November 2004.

Dr Mark Enright, a reader in epidemiology at London’s Imperial College, said the superbug can spread rapidly in intensive care wards. It can also survive on dry surfaces for up to 20 days. “The problem is that acinetobacter can spread like wildfire between patients. If you’ve got someone who has been evacuated from Iraq with multiple burns and acinetobacter, it would spread to patients in the same unit from the hands of nursing staff and doctors.” [No aseptic procedures?? What an appalling admission!]

The Ministry of Defence said it was negotiating with Selly Oak to create a military-only ward, and added that it had introduced “stringent isolation and infection control measures” that had helped limit infections among military personnel to two soldiers, both of whom survived.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL hospitals and health insurance schemes should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the very poor and minimal regulation. Both Australia and Sweden have large private sector health systems with government reimbursement for privately-provided services so can a purely private system with some level of government reimbursement or insurance for the poor be so hard to do?

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