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Wards and clinical areas are being steam cleaned at Newark Hospital as part of a £1.2m initiative to beat superbugs such as MRSA.

It is the biggest ever deep clean by Sherwood Forest Hospitals Trust at its three hospitals, which, as well as Newark, are King’s Mill Hospital, Sutton-in-Ashfield, and Mansfield Community Hospital.

A cleaning team set to work in December and will continue until March. Two wards have been completed at Newark, with one remaining.

Walls, ceilings, fittings, equipment and ventilation shafts are disinfected and deep cleaned.

Steam that reaches 100º Celsius is used to kill bacteria.

Then, bleach is used on the item and sometimes a cleaning tablet called culor-clean is put into the steam machine.

Alcoholic wipes are used on electrical equipment.

Each hospital is getting disposable curtains, new mattresses, chairs, commodes and lockers.

All ward and domestic staff are also being trained to deep clean once this initiative is complete.

The initiative is part of a campaign launched by the Prime Minister, Mr Gordon Brown, that has prompted hospital clean-ups nationwide.

The modern matron at Newark, Mrs Faye Hadden, who does weekly spot-checks to ensure cleanliness is excellent, said Newark was one of the first hospitals to undertake the new scheme.

“We were always a clean hospital anyway. I had never been anywhere so clean before I worked here. It’s brilliant,” she said.

Infection rates in Sherwood Forest hospitals stand at 8% — slightly lower than the national average.

Last year, there were 26 cases of MRSA in Sherwood’s three hospitals, just exceeding the target of no more than 24.

Only one of those cases was at Newark and staff are being encouraged to try and reduce that number to zero.

In the last three years the trust has failed to meet its performance targets on MRSA, yet it has reduced them year on year.

In 2006, it wanted no more than 36 but exceeded that by eight cases. The year before it wanted no more than 48 cases but there were 49.

Mrs Hadden said the currentscheme left nowhere untouched. She said it took the team about a week to do a ward and a day to do a bay.

“Steaming is the best way and it is known to kill everything,” Mrs Hadden said.

She said it was a long joband patients were very much behind the initiative.

“It makes them realise how clean it is because they get to see and hear it happening,” she said.

“It also makes them realise how important it is to rid the wards and hospitals of any infectious disease.”

Mr John Priestley, an antibacteriologist who is part of the cleaning team, said every area and object was cleaned thoroughly.

“We have to do the job right,” he said.

MRSA bacteria lies dormant on the skin of one in four people and can be become harmful if transferred to vulnerable patients, such as those who have undergone surgery or the elderly.

The trust now assumes that everyone admitted is infected.

C-diff is another well-publicised infectious superbug that becomes a problem when the flora in the gut has become damaged by antibiotics.

In 2005 there were 413 cases of C-diff across the three Sherwood hospitals. In 2006 there were 434 and in 2007 this had fallen to 235.

To help combat suberbugs, King’s Mill and Newark hospitals are in the third year of a national hand-washing campaign.

Other schemes include staff having sleeves rolled up and not wearing jewellery.

Cases of MRSA and C-diff are strictly monitored and analysed.

Returning patients known to have either MRSA or C-diff are highlighted as a risk, and some patients known to be from high-risk categories are automatically screened.

All planned hospital admissions will soon be screened for killer superbugs. The trust is also looking at how it can screen emergency admissions.



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