Hospital bosses are investigating a mystery rise in cases of a superbug infection among their patients which was double the maximum number expected in a month.
There were six cases of Clostridium Difficile (c.diff) at Dudley’s Russells Hall Hospital last month, double the target of no more than three.
But all the affected patients were on different wards and were suffering from different types of c.diff, a bug which causes diarrhoea and can lead to life-threatening inflammation of the intestines.
Director of nursing Denise McMahon told a Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust board meeting yesterday : “It’s not an outbreak and it is not cross-infection.
“All occurred on different wards, so it hasn’t passed from patient to patient.
“We sent all off for typing – and all are different types.”
She added that staff had ‘gone back with a vengeance’ to tackle c.diff, making sure that patients with the infection were isolated quickly so that it could not spread.
But she said 80 per cent of cases developed in the community before patients arrived in hospital.
Within 72 hours of noticing that the figure for the month of September was so much higher, a meeting was set up, attended by doctors, nurses, matrons and managers, to decide what action needed to be taken and to check that systems for prescribing antibiotics were being followed in the hospital.
In most healthy people, the c.diff bacteria will not be able to multiply in the gut and they will not develop disease.
But in sick people, antibiotics can disrupt the balance in the gut, allowing the bacteria to grow to higher levels and leading to disease and complications.
The investigation at Russells Hall includes examining whether there are any patterns to the cases that might guide what action to take.
The trust’s chief executive Paula Clark said frailer people were also more likely to develop c.diff.
The September cases bring the total at the hospital since the beginning of April to 21 – and the target for the whole of the year up to the end of next March is 38. In April there was one case, followed by four in May and five in June.
But numbers dropped back to the target in July, when there were three cases, followed by two in August.
The board meeting heard that there had been no cases of MRSA or norovirus at Russells Hall Hospital last month.