Placing hundreds of ill patients – even in small six-bedded wards – lends itself to the spread of infection among patients and staff and lack of fresh air in the wards. Any patient who contracts a contagious illness should be isolated immediately. Would the NHS Board please give serious consideration to the matter?
Currently we do have infection control policies in place which require, where possible, to either isolate patients in single rooms who may have contracted an infection, or, alternatively, isolate patients who themselves may be particularly vulnerable to infection.
However, given the hospital infrastructure we currently have available to us, we do have to work around existing ward accommodation. Single rooms and side rooms are limited in most of our older hospitals and so we will tend to manage infection by isolating groups of patients in ‘cohorts’ – in other words concentrating those patients suffering the same infection in the same wards. An example of where there has been done recently is in relation to outbreaks of Norovirus, or ‘winter vomiting bug’, which is airborne and highly infectious.
However, the majority of so-called healthcare acquired infections are not airborne and may be brought in by patients who may already have been colonised by the infection out in the community, or by their visitors. As you may be aware, there is a national initiative to screen patients before admission for planned care for infection and we enforce strict hand-washing procedures. We are also aware that over-use of antibiotics in some cases may affect destroy the ‘healthy bugs’ in the gut which keep in other types in check, such as Clostridium difficile, and allow them to multiply – consequently we are developing new policies on the use and monitoring of antibiotic prescribing.
In the longer term, we will certainly increasing the number of single bed wards in order to help combat infection. The new South Glasgow Hospital to be built on the site of the Southern General in Govan, for example, will offer single rooms to all adult patients.