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CPE threat ‘not considered resolved’ – Minister Harris

Ending the public health emergency on carbapenemase-producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE) “shouldn’t be viewed as an acceptance” by the Department of Health that the issue has been resolved, Minister for Health Simon Harris has told the Medical Independent (MI).

The Department has raised the ending of the emergency in discussions with the HSE.

Speaking to MI at the IMO AGM in Killarney, Minister Harris commented: “Certainly the ending of the emergency shouldn’t be in any way viewed as an acceptance by the Department that the issue has been resolved.

“The Chief Medical Officer set up at my request a national public health emergency team to look at the whole area of CPE. This has resulted in Ireland’s first national antimicrobial resistance plan. It has also resulted in significant funding. So we have now put the infrastructure in place to have more screening at our hospitals, to have more investment and to have a national plan. That all came out of that structure. At some point you need to move beyond that structure and let people get on with the job of implementing and that is where our mind is at, at the moment.”

The Minister added that “this is certainly an area where we’ll need to continue to increase investment in. But I’m happy that the levels of investment this year are an awful lot higher than they have been”.

In late February, the head of the HSE’s antimicrobial resistance and infection control team Prof Martin Cormican told this newspaper progress had been made in combatting CPE, but he was unsure if the battle was being won.

“Right now, the situation is there is continuing transmission in the acute hospital sector – it is being contained to some degree, but not reversed and not contained fully.”

He said, “we will need to up the game quite a bit in 2019 and 2020 if we are actually going to try and put this back in the box.”

In March, MI reported that further resources for screening, required immediately to help combat CPE, had not yet been provided by the Department.

Last month, Minister Harris welcomed an allocation of €7 million for antimicrobial resistance measures in the health service, including €2 million allocated in 2018 and a further €5 million for 2019.

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