Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/341/5705
NHS: Superbugs, superdrugs and dirty hospitals
A MASSIVE rise in reported cases of the 'superbug' MRSA in children must be a cause for concern to everyone.
Andy Ford, Amicus North Manchester NHS
In 1990 there were only four cases of MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) recorded in children; by 2001 there were 376, 13% of all childhood Staph Aureus infections, according to the Health Protection Agency.
Staph Aureus causes skin and wound infections and septicaemia and was quite often fatal before the discovery of antibiotics in the 1950s. In adults the situation is even worse than for children, with 42% of infections resistant.
The emergence of the superbugs is not some sort of terrible accident. Over-prescription of antibiotics, following aggressive marketing by drugs companies is one cause, while the use of antibiotics in intensive farming, where they increase growth rates and hence profits, is another.
But perhaps the biggest factor is dirty hospitals. Tory leader Thatcher forced most hospitals to privatise their cleaning, and it was always the lowest tender that got the contract.
Cleaners ended up doing the work of two, three or even four workers. There have even been cases of cleaners being sent to hospitals with no cleaning materials - they were supposed to forage for them in the hospital! And it is much harder to enforce standards through a contract than by direct control of staff.
And what is New Labour's response? More managers. Every hospital is to appoint an infection control manager, who will monitor contamination and infection, and give training to staff in washing their hands.
In The Socialist 3 April 2004:
Workplace news and events
International socialist news and analysis