Infection Control

Ireland’s first National Isolation Unit was opened yesterday by the Minister for Health, at the Mater Hospital in Dublin.  The unit has 12 beds in total and will be used for patients who contract highly infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, SARS and pandemic influenza.  It will also be used to treat patients with other infections including HIV, hepatitis B & C, meningitis, MRSA and malaria. This all sounds pretty good until you stop to think about it more deeply.


Firstly, I was amazed to learn that this highly specialised ‘state-of-the-art’ facility with it’s own infectious diseases multidisciplinary team, is actually the first of it’s kind in the whole country. Six of the isolation beds in this new unit will  be under negative pressure to help prevent airborne transmission of infection by microscopic droplets. Two of the isolation rooms will have different air handling systems to enhance infection control. It begs the question as to what has been happening with highly infectious patients up until now? I know that some of bigger public hospitals already have isolation units which are used to hoard all the MRSA infected patients together but they do not have any specialised facilities.

And secondly, with healthcare associated infections (HCAI) such as MRSA and C. diff now endemic in Irish hospitals, it strikes me that it might make more sense to use the isolation units for the patients who are clear of HCAI’s, to keep them free from contamination?

7 Responses to Infection Control

  1. Baino says:

    Well Steph, I guess it’s a start, lets hope there are other’s on the way!

  2. Steph says:

    You’re right! Baino

    This specialist unit would have secured funding before the present downturn in the economy, otherwise it definitely wouldn’t be happening. Sadly, the severe cutbacks announced last week, will mean the cancellation of other much-needed developments 😦

  3. Geri Atric says:

    Good for Ireland (!) and although it may seem like a David (of 12 beds) against a Goliath (of HCAIs) it is nevertheless a very positive step in coming to grips with a terrible danger endemic in all our hospitals. Hopefully funding for more of the same will become an EU priority.

  4. Caoimhin says:

    Chances are, Steph, that now the Unit is up and functioning there will be absolutely no further mention of it by either the Minister’s office or the media. Twelve clean beds cannot make up for the decades of low standards, lack of protocols, and rampant malaise that has infected the public health system due to incompetent leadership. More likely than not that Unit will become a hotbed of nosocomial contagions. Congratulations and pats on the back were shared no doubt by all concerned at the opening ceremonies; but, it is just another example by Harney of how to apply lipstick to a pig and pretend its’ beautiful.
    Great post and keep up the good work! 🙂

  5. Steph says:

    Geri – It is indeed good to see this unit open. It is staffed by it’s own infectious diseases multidisciplinary team i.e it’s a centre of excellence. It makes absolute sense to have a specialist treatment/isolation centre for highly infectious patients, I’m just surprised to learn that as a country we haven’t had this facility before now.

    Caoimhin – welcome back!

    Don’t worry, the smile will be wiped off Harney’s face soon enough is we are ever unlucky enough to have a flu pandemic in this country. They’ll probably use the isolation unit to protect the Cabinet 🙄

  6. Knipex says:

    As far as I know St James have a number of isolation rooms that are at positive pressure and at least 2 that can be changed to negative pressure. These are on the bone marrow transplant unit.

    I am fairly sure that Vincents also have a number of negative pressure rooms.

    They would be on specialist wards and not open for general use though.

  7. Steph says:

    Knipex – good to hear from you!

    You would certainly expect St. James’s to have proper isolation rooms as it’s the national centre for bone marrow transplantation. However, I presume these negative pressure isolation facilities are designed to keep ‘bugs’ out not in!

    I’m sure you’ll have read the HIQA report (published today) on hygiene standards in hospitals. While the results are fairly alarming, it’s good to see that some progress has been made over the last year and that the HSE is being publicly embarrassed into having to improve standards.

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