Martin Hannan: Come clean on MRSA threat

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Does the medical profession in Scotland have a guilty secret? Are figures being massaged to show that the health service is beating a superbug when in fact the bug is winning?

You will have heard of the initials MRSA. Methicillin-Resistant Staphyloccocus Aureus is the superbug that is, frankly, terrifying the medical profession since, in some cases, it is virtually untreatable as a whole host of antibiotics can’t beat MRSA.

The bug is spreading in places such as prisons and nursing homes, but we tend to think of MRSA as the hospital bug, or H(ospital)A(cquired)-MRSA as it’s known.

Health Protection Scotland and Health Secretary Alex Neil recently made great play of new research that showed a 17 per cent drop in HA-MRSA infections to just 29 recorded cases in Scotland in the period July to September last year.

And anyone who has visited a hospital recently might well believe that to be true, given the hand-cleaning gels outside wards.

Forgive me for being a cynical hack, however. The official statistics show that the deaths of only 48 people in Scotland in 2012 had MRSA as the underlying cause or a contributory factor. That’s down from 62 such deaths in 2011.

Do the stats lie? Doctors, surgeons, administrators and the general public alike all trust in antibiotics, then along comes MRSA and suddenly all sorts of antibiotics don’t work, and I believe that has led to some people in the medical profession conning the public about its prevalence.

For if only 48 people died as a result of MRSA infection in the whole of Scotland in 2012, and only 29 cases were recorded in three months last year, how come I personally know of three people who have caught it in recent months, one of whom is still in hospital, one who was hospitalised for weeks, and one of whom died?

Two of the three victims certainly caught the bug in hospital where they had invasive surgery.

Yet getting a doctor to admit that HA-MRSA is the cause of an infection is a difficult thing to do.

On talking to people with experience of family and friends contracting the bug, it is almost as if the medics would run a mile rather than admit that MRSA is either an “underlying cause” or a “contributory factor” in an illness or death. As I said, I knew someone who died after contracting MRSA. He was a very brave man who had beaten cancer at an advanced age, but the HA-MRSA infection got him, and that led to pneumonia and eventually a stroke that together carried him off. Nowhere on the death certificate was MRSA mentioned, either as underlying cause or a contributory factor.

A relative told me: “It’s almost as if medical staff want you to catch some other disease so that they can put it as the cause of death rather than admit that HA-MRSA was the real killer.”

You can see why admissions about HA-MRSA may not be forthcoming from medical staff. For they might get hospitals sued, and no doctor or surgeon wants that on their CV, and no hospital manager wants to deal with the fallout.

I’ve no doubt the medical profession is doing all it can to beat HA-MRSA. I’m just wondering if they are telling us the whole story.

Railroaded by the Tories’ ideology

So now we know the most successful railway company on Britain is to be reprivatised. By the standards that count – passenger satisfaction, user numbers and how much it costs the taxpayer – East Coast is the best line in the UK, and it is hugely vital for Edinburgh.

I agree with Bob Crow, the RMT union general secretary, who blamed the coalition government’s decision on “pure ideology”.

Crow and many other people feel that “comparable private train companies rob us blind,” but because East Coast is a nationalised operator, it has to go.

FirstGroup, Eurostar-Keolis and the joint Stagecoach-Virgin operation are the three bidders. Be assured, your bids for Edinburgh’s main line south will be scrutinised as never before.

Save us all from proper Charlies

I could have cried when I opened the Evening News on Saturday and saw the artist’s impressions for Caltongate. The £150 million plan is up for approval at a meeting this week and though they won’t have the guts, I implore the councillors to refuse the mundane, pathetic, ghastly, objectionable, repugnant and out-of-context modernist monstrosity that is being proposed.

For goodness’ sake, this is the Old Town of Edinburgh, not Cumbernauld or Milton Keynes. Buildings of genuine architectural merit made from good Scottish stone are required, not concrete carbuncles. Prince Charles – your Scottish capital needs you now!

A veritable cut above the rest

I do like to praise good service when I get it in Edinburgh, so a word of tribute and thanks is long overdue to Francesco Fortucci, barber extraordinaire at Alfie’s in Fleshmarket Close.

He has somehow made my verdant locks neat and tidy over the last few years and I know he does the same for a great many satisfied customers.

SMARTY PANTS

So Bawbags Underwear is sponsoring skier Murray Buchan of Colinton as he goes to the Winter Olympics. I’m sure Bawbags will no doubt lend ‘support’ to our female athletes, too.