Long delay in contacting patient
SIMON Leggett wants to know why it took Coffs Harbour Health Campus almost four months to ask him to return to the hospital for testing for possible exposure to vancomycin resistant enterococci (VRE).
The Toormina resident said he was in hospital for four or five days from December 17 last year, but had only just received a request asking him to be tested for the feared ‘superbug.’
An outbreak of VRE at the health campus in 2008 led to postponed surgery and quarantining of patients.
As a result of the outbreak the hospital put together a team of infection-control specialists from Sydney and greatly ramped up infection control and hygiene procedures.
In September 2009 another VRE outbreak at the health campus was blamed on cuts to cleaning staff by Coffs Harbour MP Andrew Fraser.
Mr Leggett’s mother, Yvonne Dixon, said she was angry about the delay because her son had had Crohn’s Disease since he was very young.
VRE can be harmless for healthy people but extremely serious for people who are already ill with pre-existing conditions, like long-term illnesses.
Patients who have come into contact with known cases of VRE are generally screened for the presence of the antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Mrs Dixon said in addition to the risk for her son from his pre-existing condition, Mr Leggett had recently had a colonoscopy in Baringa Private Hospital and had not known beforehand about his possible exposure to VRE.
Mr Leggett said in December, when he was a patient in the public hospital, he and several other patients had all been suddenly moved out of a ward, leaving one patient alone.
He now believes that a woman had been diagnosed as carrying VRE, particularly because he was unable to find her when he tried to visit her.
“I couldn’t make out why we were all moved out at once,” Mr Leggett said.
“I went back to see the lady, but she was not there and no one would tell me where she had gone.”
Mrs Dixon said this week they had to ‘beg’ the hospital to have the test done as hospital staff wanted to wait until Mr Leggett was next admitted to hospital to carry out the procedure.
Mrs Dixon and Mr Leggett believe the delay between possible exposure and notification was far too long.
A spokeswoman for the North Coast Area Health Service said the hospital was investigating the matter, but sometimes it took a long time to identify people who may have been in contact with a VRE patient.