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Minister wanted to identify MRSA spa

Health Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin would have preferred to identify Tai Homespa as the source of a drug-resistant infection that hit the Island in September.

The Royal Gazette identified the Hamilton spa as the “point source” of the outbreak, which was dealt with by health officers, after Government refused to do so.

Thirty-one cases of the relatively common but often aggressive MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) were traced to the business, Ms Gordon-Pamplin told the House of Assembly on Friday.

All the cases have since been treated, and there has been “no evidence of ongoing transmission”, she added.

Asked by Progressive Labour Party MP Glenn Blakeney why she hadn't gone public with the name of the source, Ms Gordon-Pamplin said: “The public was alerted. The procedure articulated to me by the Health Department was that in order for them to perform an effective investigation, they needed to do things in a certain way. They are the professionals and I had to respect what they deemed to be the most appropriate way.”

She added: “If history has proven me incorrect, I will take full responsibility.”

Ms Gordon-Pamplin said she had respected existing protocol at the time, but told MPs: “I did not agree at the time that the established policy was the most efficacious way of communicating information.”

She said she “would have liked to get out there initially and identify this facility. I would have liked to have done that. I had tremendous pushback, which I had to respect”.

Asked by Opposition Leader Marc Bean if she could confirm that an MP had contracted the disease at the spa, the Minister replied: “I do not have, nor would I release, the names of all those people on that list.”

Shadow Health Minister Zane DeSilva then asked: “In light of what happened with regard to this situation with MRSA, and the supplementary questions just asked, I ask the Minister, in the future, does she plan on changing her policy so that she will identify any business that has the potential of life-threatening circumstances to the people of this country?”

Replying that she was “absolutely reviewing the policy”, Ms Gordon-Pamplin added: “One may remember there was an outbreak of food-poisoning and a similar approach was taken.”

A local school was the centre of that 2011 incident, at which time Mr DeSilva was Health Minister.

In her ministerial statement, Ms Gordon-Pamplin told the House that MRSA cannot be eliminated entirely, and is carried by roughly two out of 100 people.

“A total of 146 cases of MRSA were reported to the Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit at the Ministry of Health in the year 2012, which included both hospital and community-acquired infections. These organisms remain a part of the natural environment.”

Ms Gordon-Pamplin added that in order to ensure that “a pall of suspicion was not cast over all facilities, I spoke with the proprietor to encourage him to step forward and confirm the situation relating to the specific establishment”.

She continued: “This step assisted clients who had not already been contacted by the tracing process, to make the necessary contacts with the epidemiology department and to get instructions on how to manage their situations, if the need arose. We thank all these individuals for their cooperation in this outbreak investigation, and we thank the staff of the Ministry of Health and the BHB for their collaboration in preventing what could have been an epidemic.”

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Published November 18, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated November 17, 2013 at 10:47 pm)

Minister wanted to identify MRSA spa

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