ISOLATION facilities at one of North Wales’s biggest hospitals are not fit for purpose, presenting a growing risk of infection.

Now the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is set to spend £1.7m in upgrading the facilities at the Maelor Hospital in Wrexham, which, being close to the English border, is said to be in a particularly vulnerable position.

For the past 10 years the only means of segregation and isolation on the critical care unit has been two Isopods which are rented at a cost of £30,000 a year.

But according to project director Graham Alexander they have “significant inadequacies”, with no handwashing facilities, which means staff and visitors having to share washbasins, increasing the risk of cross-contamination.

Patients with infectious organisms cannot be dialysed in the units because there are no water points.

“In order to give dialysis to a patient, the doors would actually need to be opened and the bed pulled out, wholly defeating the object of segregation,” said Mr Alexander.

The doors to the critical care unit are defective and no longer close properly, which means that only specific infections such as colonised wounds or other infections transmitted by contact can be nursed in them., with airborne and spore-generating pathogens having to be handled in the Isopods.

Patients with reduced immunity are occasionally nursed in open bays where infections could be fatal, and patients with highly virulent and contagious infections are not always isolated in a timely manner, increasing the risk of spreading.

According to the report the location of the hospital near the English border “poses a unique threat to the prevention and control of infection”.

Most of the patients needing tertiary, or long-term specialist medical care, are transferred to the Maelor from major centres in Manchester and Liverpool which have now been declared as “CPE endemic”. CPE – or carbapenemase producing enterobacteraicia – are bacteria that are resistant to most effective antibiotics and spread rapidly in health care facilities.

One CPE outbreak in Central Manchester University Hospital costs the Trust £5.2m and another in Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral cost the Trust 100s of bed days, with a patient mortality rate of 60-80 per cent.