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Osaka Pref. hospital where 18 died failed to suspect in-house infections for 2 1/2 years

Hanna Hospital where 19 inpatients were infected with drug-resistant bacteria is seen in Daito, Osaka Prefecture, on Oct. 17, 2019. (Mainichi/Koji Endo)

DAITO, Osaka -- A local hospital where 18 inpatients died after being infected with drug-resistant bacteria failed to consider the possibility of an in-house outbreak while being aware that infections repeatedly occurred over a 2 1/2-year period, those close to the institution said.

Even after confirming cases of infections from the bacteria, the institution failed to thoroughly implement measures to prevent such outbreaks.

The revelation shows that the hospital's lack of a sense of crisis led to the spread of the bacteria.

Hanna Hospital in Daito, Osaka Prefecture, in western Japan confirmed in February 2017 that an 81-year-old male inpatient at its tuberculosis ward had been infected with drug-resistant bacteria Acinetobacter. The hospital further found that another two people were infected with the bacteria in April and October 2018, respectively.

Hanna Hospital analyzes the outbreaks of infectious diseases and considers preventive measures during meetings of its infection countermeasures panel chaired by its director every month. The number of cases of patients being infected with Acinetobacter was reported at the panel.

Nevertheless, its members neither raised suspicions of in-hospital infections nor proposed to beef up measures to prevent infections from the bacteria, according to insiders.

A total of 19 inpatients aged 58-97 had been infected with the bacteria by August 2019 when an investigation by an outside physician exposed the problem, and 18 of them died before long.

As most of these patients did not develop symptoms of a disease caused by Acinetobacter, the hospital was not legally required to file a report with a local public health center. Hospital director Ichiro Kawase thus told reporters that the medical staff "didn't have a sense of crisis."

Among the 18 patients who died, the hospital diagnosed this past January that a 71-year-old man had developed symptoms of a disease caused by the bacteria, but the doctor in charge failed to share information on the case with other medical staff members or report the case to the local health center.

The patient died about two weeks later after his pneumonia worsened. There is highly likely a causal relationship between the patient's infection with the bacteria and his death, according to people familiar with the matter.

If those whose immune system has weakened get infected with Acinetobacter, which is resistant to antibiotics, and develop symptoms, they could die of pneumonia or blood poisoning.

(Japanese original by Koji Endo and Daisuke Kondo, Osaka Special Reports Department)

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