Patient exposed to deadly bacteria

NORTH Coast Area Health Service has apologised for any distress caused to Toormina man Simon Leggett, who has only just found out he was in contact four months ago with a patient who had Vancomycin Resistant Enterococci (VRE).

A spokesperson for the NCAHS said during Mr Leggett’s admission (in December) he had contact with a patient who had subsequently been found to be VRE positive.

“Coffs Harbour Health Campus was not aware of his VRE contact at the time of Mr Leggett’s discharge,” the spokesperson said.

“The results were not confirmed until March 5, after which CHHC became aware that Mr Leggett may have had exposure to a VRE-positive patient through contact tracing.

“Letters were then sent to previous patients in early April, advising them that they were a contact.

“The VRE status of the patient, who is now confirmed positive, was unknown during their previous admission in December 2008.

“VRE bacteria can be carried quite harmlessly by up to two per cent of the general population.”

Mr Leggett, a long-term sufferer of Crohn’s Disease, was upset that he did not know about his contact with a VRE patient before entering Baringa for another procedure recently.

Yesterday 80-year-old Graham Greenhalgh, who was a patient in the Health Campus in June 2008 and also came into contact with VRE, expressed sympathy for Mr Leggett.

Mr Geenhalgh said he had been unaware he had been in contact with a VRE-positive patient in the public hospital until Baringa Private Hospital refused him admission for a procedure on the basis he was on a list of VRE contact patients provided to them, by the health campus.

“Apparently they can’t accept you in a VRE situation,” the veteran said.

Mr Greenhalgh said by the time he received his official letter of notification from the public health service in September, he had already been tested and cleared of any VRE infection through a pathology test arranged by the private hospital.

“They had advised Baringa but not me,” Mr Greenhalgh said.

“The communication system is no good.”

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