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Minister dismisses deadly outbreak as routine even

Minister dismisses deadly outbreak as routine event

It is shocking that the Minister of Health is dismissing as a routine event the outbreak of the deadly GRSA superbug at Wellington Hospital's neonatal unit which has infected almost 40 people and been responsible for the deaths of several neonatal babies, Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

In response to questioning in Parliament, Annette King said the outbreak was a routine event which happened in hospitals around the world. The minister said she was not concerned that Capital and Coast Health District Health Board had kept the outbreak under wraps for six months, and had not alerted her to the outbreak until last week.

"Given the seriousness of this particular outbreak, Capital and Coast should have alerted the Ministry of Health and the Minister of Health, as well as all the parents involved, and kept them fully involved from the outset, instead of concealing it from them for six months," Ms Kedgley says.

It is astonishing that the hospital had failed to inform parents with babies at the neonatal unit about the existence of the aggressive superbug until last week, or even to inform parents such as Maree Hood that their baby had died from an infection caused by the superbug.
"The Minister did not seem to believe that hospitals have a duty to inform parents of such a potential risk to a baby's health. This is extraordinary."

Microbiologists had emphasised that the outbreak was far from routine: that the bacteria was extremely aggressive and defied normal infection control procedures, Ms Kedgley says.
"We need answers about why this particular organism is so aggressive, and why it has developed resistance to an antibiotic-Gentomicin -which is only used in hospitals. It raises the question - have hospitals been using this antibiotic excessively, or what otherwise has given rise to such an aggressive organism?"

A national review of Neonatal units last year had concluded that crowded and stretched units were endangering babies. "This outbreak seems to confirm this."

Antibiotic resistance and the associated emergence of superbugs was a growing concern globally and in New Zealand. Six years ago an expert panel had recommended that the government set up a comprehensive national surveillance and monitoring system of antibiotic resistance in humans and animals to assess how prevalent it was in hospitals and communities, and to enable a rapid response to outbreaks such as the one at Wellington Hospital's neonatal unit. "It is astonishing that six years later, despite serious outbreaks of antibiotic resistance, Mrs King's government has still not acted on this recommendation," Ms Kedgley says.


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