Category Archives: Life

Forget the Flowers, bring the bleach

The writer of this piece in the Telegraph has some very timely advice regarding what can be done to bring the rise in infections in hospitals under control. It seems that a good starting place is the use of bleach. She is a doctor who has experience in infection control. Dr. Jane makes some very interesting observations regarding the cleanliness of the wards in hospitals and why this issue has not been brought under control. It seems that the NHS are not using ward staff for the cleaning jobs, but they are paying contractors who have no real knowledge regarding the issue of bugs and cleanliness.
She points out that the microbiology departments of the hospitals are under-utilized even though there is a growing problem with the superbugs. The spores that cause the infection are killed by household bleach, or at least the hospital grade bleach. Why are the cleaners not using these products? She points out that she had a stay at the University Hospital and she was appalled over the cleaning standards, and how visitors are allowed onto the wards when the floors are still wet, allowing more bugs to remain in the ward.
It sounds like this problem can be controlled, but there has to be a return to the old standards of cleanliness. If the UK continues with the underfunding of its hospital system then the situation will only get worse. Perhaps this is a sign that socialized medicine is in melt-down.


Miraculous survival of Australia’s smallest baby

Mario Xuereb
October 18, 2007

WHEN she was born, Elora De Bondi’s arms barely spanned the length of her mother’s finger.

The baby was born on January 29 weighing 319 grams, making her possibly the smallest baby born alive in Australia.

Before she was delivered 16 weeks’ premature, doctors at the Royal Women’s Hospital doubted she would live. But her mother, Adele, even after being told by doctors that they held no hope, never lost her own hope.

Ms De Bondi, 29, learnt that her pregnancy was in trouble during an ultrasound scan. Her baby was too small and her pregnancy would most probably end within a month.

“Basically, I was 20 weeks pregnant but the baby was about 17 weeks in size,” Ms De Bondi said yesterday.

Doctors gave her a course of steroids in the hope of stimulating Elora’s growth. Her lungs had scarcely developed.

After two weeks, doctors told Ms De Bondi that her placenta was dying and, with it, Elora.

Undeterred by the prognosis, Ms De Bondi demanded a caesarean section despite the risks of losing not only her child but her fertility and her own life.

Elora was born after only 24 weeks in the womb. She spent seven months in intensive care attached to ventilators.

Ms De Bondi, from North Balwyn, says Elora came close to dying countless times: she battled infections, renal failure and the stress of her surroundings. Many times doctors advised Ms De Bondi to switch off Elora’s life support. Her mother remained steadfast, trusting that her fragile daughter, who she had barely touched, would pull through.

After months in a critical condition, Elora grew to 4.4 kilograms. She left hospital on August 27, astounding doctors with her survival.

Elora’s pediatrician said her story was “miraculous but the journey is long and uncertain for extremely tiny babies”.

“Families, and the staff who care for such premature babies, have faced the most difficult decisions of survival and quality of life,” said Sue Jacobs, director of the Royal Women’s neonatal services.

Before Elora, the smallest surviving baby at the Royal Women’s was Adriana Cassar, born 13 weeks premature, at 374 grams, eight years ago.

Elora faces many hurdles. She is fed through a gastronasal tube and her immune system is weak. While her lung disease is expected to clear in childhood, doctors will wait at least two years before giving the all-clear.

Elora de Bondi is possibly the smallest baby born alive in<br /> Australia. She weighed 319 grams when she was delivered in January.

Elora de Bondi is possibly the smallest baby born alive in Australia.

US firm plans to exploit frozen embryos

BBC NEWS | Health | IVF ‘cell bank’ plan criticised

The California based company StemLifeLine has announced a plan to store stem cells from spare IVF embryos. However, this plan has angered UK scientists. The theory is that cells banked from one embryo could provide treatment for a sibling threatened by serious disease in the future.Lord Robert Winston has hit out at the scheme stating that it is preying on parent’s fears about the future of their children.

Stem cells are the master cells that are capable of growing into a wide variety of different tissues, and scientists believe that one day these stem cells can be harnessed to fight such diseases as Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. To date, there has not been any successful treatment developed from embryonic stems cells.

Whilst the Californian company claims that one day these cells “might be useful”, Lord Winston has hit back stating that:

“There is no scientific evidence to sustain the notion that this will be a useful procedure. I would be horrified if anyone tried to do this in Britain.”

Professor Stephen Minger, from Kings College, London, also spoke against the purpose of this company with the following comment:

“My worry is that this is a commercial service that is being promoted to companies when the science is not really there to justify it.

It is like trying to run before you can walk, and the fact it is being done for commercial purposes makes it worse.”

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The death of so Many patients could have been avoided

C.diff death scandal could have been avoided
By Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor

Last Updated: 3:06am BST 12/10/2007


This is by far the worst single outbreak of a hospital infection and the fact at least 90 people probably died as a result is a scandal.

Clostridium difficile is a common hospital infection and poses a far greater threat to health services than the more notorious MRSA.

It is extremely infectious and the spores can live on surfaces, door handles, lavatory seats, bed rails and the like for days or weeks.

Hospital hygiene practices play an enormous role in preventing an outbreak emerging from a single infected person.

However, a clean hospital will still have problems with infections and gimmicks such as doctors wearing short sleeves and no ties can only go so far.

Good nursing care is essential so it is vital that hospitals have enough staff.There needs to be the time and space for cleaners to decontaminate beds between patients.

This is where Government targets are said to have hampered infection control measures because the pressure has been on to admit people from A&E before their four hour waiting time is up and to get patients in for surgery and off the waiting lists.

Doctors have also been too willing to prescribe broad spectrum antibiotics and at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust patients at risk of C.diff were given unsuitable medication that made it easier for the bug to take hold.

Using antibiotics sparingly means it takes longer for the organism to become resistant to the drug which makes it more difficult to treat.

Some degree of resistance is inevitable and hospitals will never be completely clear of infections.

What makes this case so horrifying is the sheer scale of it and the lack of action by mangers despite repeated warnings from staff and patients.

The fact some people came into the hospital with entirely curable conditions, only to contract C.diff and die is utterly tragic and should never be repeated.

A Scandal erupts in UK hospitals – hundreds of patients die from Clostridium Difficile bug

The UK government has released a report concerning the deaths of hundreds of people who have died in hospital as a result of contracting what is known as the super bug Clostridium Difficile. These deaths are the direct result of some extraordinarily poor health practices on the wards of hospitals in the U.K. Is it a matter of staff being stressed out because of too much work, or is it a matter of poor training in the first place? Certainly there should be no excuse for the discovery of dirty sinks in a ward:


Case studies: Wretched death of C.diff victims

By Gordon Rayner, Stephen Adams, Lucy Cockcroft and Laura Clout

Last Updated: 3:07am BST 12/10/2007

Families of some of the 331 patients whose deaths have been linked to Clostridium Difficile in Britain’s worst hospital superbug outbreak welcomed the findings of yesterday’s Healthcare Commission report which disclosed the scale of the scandal.

A sink in a cleaning room at Maidstone Hospital

A sink in a cleaning room at Maidstone Hospital

Several of the relatives spoke to The Daily Telegraph to share their experiences of the shocking conditions, to expose the chronic understaffing which many say is to blame, and to express the devastation of seeing a loved one die in such circumstances.


A healthy 86-year-old who worked part-time in a clothes shop, Florrie Field contracted C.diff at the end of March this year after being admitted to Maidstone Hospital with an eye infection.

Doctors told her family that the chronic diarrhoea she suffered after being given anti-biotics was just a reaction to the drugs. She was sent home after two weeks.

It was only when she collapsed at home and a GP visited her that C.diff was diagnosed. She was taken to the Kent and Sussex Hospital for treatment but died on May 27.

Her daughter, Brenda Charlton, said she saw staff at Maidstone Hospital failing to wash their hands or change aprons as they went from patient to patient. Three times they told Mrs Field to wet her bed, saying they didn’t have time to take her to the bathroom or bring a bedpan.

Mrs Charlton’s husband Tony, 63, said: “You would have thought someone at the hospital would have recognised the symptoms, but there was a failure of procedure and it wasn’t noted.”


John Gosal is planning to sue Maidstone Hospital for a catalogue of errors which he says led to the death of his mother from C.diff.

Ranjit Gosal, 71, who was being treated for ovarian cancer, caught the bug in May last year and died the following June after what her son describes as “shambolic” treatment, including doctors prescribing antibiotics that made her condition worse.

Mr Gosal said: “The conditions in Maidstone Hospital were appalling. There was dust everywhere and it smelled. One patient who had diarrhoea was on the ward with just a curtain separating her from the other patients.

“Though the hospital was in the middle of the outbreak, they didn’t check my mother had C.diff and it was only diagnosed after she died.”


The 87-year-old Dunkirk veteran died a wretched death last July after catching C.diff at Maidstone Hospital.

His daughter Jackie said the former officer with the Metropolitan Police was appalled by the conditions at the hospital where “hour by hour his soul was being stripped”.

Mr Nixon, who caught the superbug after a bowel operation, asked his daughter: “What have I done to deserve being trapped in this awful place?”

Mrs Nixon, who took her father home to die, said there was little the nurses could do because the wards were so chronically understaffed.

“I ended up having to change my father’s bed for him the whole time because otherwise he would be left lying in his own soiled sheets for three to four hours at a time,” she said. “Keeping hospitals clean is basic. But there aren’t enough nurses to do it properly.”


After being given chemotherapy at Maidstone Hospital for a tumour under her arm, Doreen Ford, 77, a retired civil servant, was told she did not have to go back to the hospital for six months.

But Mrs Ford had been given a blood transfusion as part of her treatment, during which she contracted C.diff. She died five weeks later, in October last year. Her family was unaware she had the superbug until they saw it on her death certificate.

Her stepson Steve Stroud, 55, said: “When we asked the hospital about the C.diff she had contracted there was a bit of a silence there.

“They didn’t seem to want to talk about it. We had to have our house fumigated to kill off the C.diff spores which can last for six months, but we were told the disinfectant which was used in our house is 100 per cent effective, so we wanted to know why the hospital wasn’t using the same chemicals. They wouldn’t answer.”

Mr Stroud’s wife, the former Bucks Fizz singer, Cheryl Baker, later called for Maidstone Hospital to stop admitting patients likely to be vulnerable to the C.diff bug.


Having broken her hip in a fall, Mary Hirst, 83, was told by doctors at Maidstone Hospital that she would be home in a week.

But shortly before she was due to be discharged she began suffering from diarrhoea, and seven weeks later, on May 24 last year, she died, having contracted C.diff and MRSA.

Her daughter, Jackie Stewart, said: “She used to be fighting fit. She looked after a three-bedroom semi, did the gardening and hadn’t seen a doctor in years.

“Everything was going well, the hip was fixing, then four days after her operation to mend her hip we were told she had diarrhoea. As far as we knew that’s all she had. We were not told that she had C.diff.

“She was left in her own soiled sheets and was sobbing because nobody had cleaned her up. Her treatment was appalling. She was not being fed properly, not being cleaned, and there was only one commode between six patients. She didn’t die of a broken hip, she died of hospital neglect.”

Mrs Stewart said she was considering suing Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust. She said she was “not surprised” by the Healthcare Commission’s revelation of so many deaths from C.diff.

“They seemed to be taking bodies away every five minutes,” she said.

Every single case that has been highlighted in this story involves an elderly patient, and it is almost as if the staff at these hospitals were deliberately not caring for these elderly patients. I would not like to think that this was true, but it seems that there is a pattern to this neglect. Leaving patients in soiled sheets is downright disgusting. Refusing to take them to the toilet is an abuse of the elderly patient. The staff at these hospitals have been behaving in a very abusive way towards elderly patients. They try to hide behind the mask of not having enough staff to cope on the wards. Does the buck stop with the hospital? Does it go further and implicate a lack of proper government funding? Or is it pointing to the flaw of having a totally public hospital system that relies upon government funding, where there is not enough funds being allocated in the right way so that elderly patients receive the correct form of care? Or is it a case of hiring third world staff who do not know enough about personal hygiene, thus risking the lives of patients who are being admitted to hospital wards that are being kept in third world conditions?

Two anniversaries this weekend

It was a sudden realization that I remembered that we have reached the third anniversary of the death of my good friend Margaret Davis. We first met Margaret and Dennis when we attended a meeting that was designed to stop the local council allowing a hotel to be opened in the main shopping area of Castle Hill,Sydney. We belonged to the same parish and as we sat there waiting for the meeting to begin we got talking to each other. Margaret and Dennis had been married for more than 60 years when Margaret passed away as a result of a stroke. She was very dedicated to the Divine Mercy and so it was fitting that she should die on the feast of St. Faustina. I can remember the funeral service and the tribute given to Margaret by our parish priest at the time, and his expression of how we were all going to miss Margaret. It is true, because I used to tease her because she was so slow with walking (she had fractured her hip) and on the Sunday I would be always calling out “come on Margaret, hurry up”. We used to always sit behind Margaret and Dennis every Sunday, and then when I attended Saturday Mass, I used to sit in front of them. It was a wonderful friendship with an elderly couple.

This weekend was also the first anniversary of the death of another good friend, Dr. Frank Orioles. Frank was a very faith-filled man from an Italian background. He passed away as a result of secondary bone cancer as a result of having cancer of the kidney. I watched as Frank struggled against his cancer and yet he continued to come each day to daily Mass. Another good friend, Vince, decided that Frank was not well enough to drive himself to the church, and so Vince devoted himself to picking up Frank every morning. If Frank was not there, then I would ask where he was. There is little that I can say about Frank, but I have a lot of endearing memories, especially memories concerning his sense of humour.

I met Frank in Castle Hill because he was a member of the same family group. Over the years this family group endured a lot together. The original group went through the children receiving first Holy Communion, Confirmation, and marriages. Then the son-in-law of one member passed away from stomach cancer – he was only 32. On the very next day my grandmother passed away after a series of heart attacks – she was just shy of 99. Frank’s mother passed away, and then the brother of one of the group members suddenly passed away as a result of a heart attack (I knew John from daily Mass). Other members also lost family members. The group was there when my father suffered a stroke and then he died, and I am grateful to Frank for his concern, especially in answering my questions, and 18 months later my sister died from primary bone cancer. Other members lost mothers and fathers, but in all we were able to give each other support at those times of loss of family members.

Even when Frank was so very sick, he always enquired about my health. He knew that I had not been very well, and he always maintained concern. If I missed the daily Mass for any reason, I would get a phone call from Frank asking me if anything was wrong. That was Frank Orioles. A gentle man who put himself out for others.

The first anniversary of Maureen’s death

Today I commemorate the first anniversary of my sister’s death that came about as the result of undiagnosed bone cancer. The past year has been very hard because of the anger the whirls up inside when I hear about the neglect of doctors who dismissed her complaints as being nothing. One doctor told her to go home and drink plenty of fluid, despite the fact that Maureen had gone to this doctor because she could neither eat nor drink.

Today is also the day in which Maureen entered into Eternal Life. I sincerely believe that Maureen is destined for a place in heaven, for no matter what shameful things she did during her life, there were also the things that showed that underneath she had a good heart and was motivated in the right direction. Also, my sister received the Last Rites and all of her sins were forgiven by God.

My sister had struggled with Bulimia Nervosa, but she had treatment and in the end she had another child, Paris, after she had returned to a more normal state. She worked as a nurse’s aide and she loved working with the elderly. This is the one who took in her nieces when they were thrown out of home by their father. She cared for my grandmother and she used to go there to help Nana with things such as her hair. When Nana was placed in a nursing home, Maureen continued her regular visits, and this continued right up until Nana passed away only a short time prior to her 99th birthday.

Maureen was too young to die, for she was only 52 years of age at the time of her death. Perhaps, if the doctors had taken her seriously, instead of pushing her away and telling her that nothing was wrong, she might be alive today, and I would not be sitting here worrying about Paris and Renee. I worry about Paris because she is only 15 years old and she has started dressing like a Goth. In this respect, Renee is not proving reliable in her guardianship of her sister.

So, at this point in time, rather than mourning my sister’s untimely death, I celebrate her life and all the good things that can be remembered about her existence. How many have looked after the elderly to the point of doing their mending? That was my sister.