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Pan-screening programme of Vancomycin Resistant Enterococci at Queen Elizabeth Hospital

     The following is issued on behalf of the Hospital Authority:

     The spokesperson for Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) announced today (September 30) that due to the rising trend of Vancomycin Resistant Enterococci (VRE) carriers screened in the hospital in recent months, pan-screening of VRE carriers will commence today upon expert microbiologist advice.
     The pan-screening exercise, covering all in-patients, will collect and test patient specimens via rectal swab in the coming two to four weeks.
     While screening has normally been conducted for contact tracing purposes, this pan-screening exercise aims to take a snapshot of the VRE prevalence situation at QEH with a view to formulating appropriate strategy in controlling the spread of VRE.
     The hospital preliminarily estimates that about 10 per cent of in-patients will be found to be VRE carriers in the screening. As most old age homes are not capable of taking care of VRE carriers, some elderly patients who have recovered from their own illnesses cannot be discharged back to their old age homes and will remain in hospital. This will likely extend the patients' length of stay from the usual six days to 12 days. As such, the hospital has to reduce non-emergency services in order to vacate beds for patients confirmed as VRE carriers.
     QEH would like to emphasise that the exercise will not affect any emergency services, including cancer surgeries and procedures, and caesarean operations. However, the hospital needs to reschedule about 30 per cent of non-emergency operations, affecting about 30 patients each day. Hospital staff will inform the patients concerned about the rescheduling of operations to two to three months later.
     The hospital has activated the Major Incident Control Centre for closely monitoring and analysing the pan-screening data and the occupancy rate on a daily basis. Service arrangements and the pan-screening schedule will be duly reviewed to ensure that all emergency services are not affected. Close communication with staff members will be maintained on progress of the pan-screening.
     QEH will also closely liaise and co-ordinate with the Hospital Authority Head Office and the Centre for Health Protection, inter alia, on the discharge arrangements for elderly patients to old age homes which can take care of VRE carriers.
     At the same time, the hospital will continue to adopt the following enhanced infection control measures:
1. Encourage patients to perform hand hygiene;
2. Enhance hand hygiene of staff;
3. Apply stringent contact precautions, including dedicated use of clinical items to VRE carriers; and
4. Enhance environmental and equipment decontamination.

     Lastly, the hospital appeals for public understanding on the significance of the pan-screening exercise in controlling the spread of VRE and would like to extend apologies to patients being affected. QEH also thanks all front-line staff for their extra effort in the smooth running of this exercise.

Ends/Monday, September 30, 2013
Issued at HKT 11:16


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