Superbug strikes Banks

By Jared Savage

Auckland Mayor John Banks has been infected with a "superbug" after a shoulder operation at a private hospital went horribly wrong.

Banks needed reconstructive surgery after falling down a flight of steps at the Auckland Town Hall on Christmas Eve, tearing the rotator cuff on his right shoulder.

Surgeons at the private MercyAscot Hospital in Remuera repaired the damaged joint in January, but Banks returned to the hospital a month later feeling sick.

Worried doctors performed emergency surgery the following day, but the repaired rotator cuff had been destroyed - to the point where the screws and pins fell out during the operation.

MercyAscot could not diagnose the bug through routine testing, so Banks was taken to the infectious disease unit at Auckland City Hospital, where the hospital-acquired infection could only be diagnosed after DNA testing.

For the next six weeks, Banks was intravenously fed massive doses of antibiotics 24 hours a day to combat the "superbug", with a bag of liquid drugs strapped to his waist.

Doctors said Banks could have died if the infection reached his bloodstream.

Friends close to Banks said he was putting a brave face on the injury and wouldn't want the public to know the full story.

When asked about the crippled shoulder, Banks said he would rather not dwell on it, but he was fortunate the "other shoulder was okay".

Pressed further, Banks said the surgery and complication had been stressful but nothing would stop him running the city, taking only two days off work.

He had "nothing but praise" for his surgical team and would not confirm the identity of the private hospital.

But the Herald on Sunday understands Banks is angry about the infection and disappointed Ascot management has not contacted him since the operation.

MercyAscot chief executive Dr Andrew Wong said hospital policy prevented him from discussing the details of any patient.

But he said the private hospital met all the requirements of a certified and fully accredited hospital.

Last October, three people died after a rare superbug swept through Auckland Hospital and infected 65 patients.

An outbreak of vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) - caused by a common bowel bacteria that is harmless unless it reaches the bloodstream - forced the hospital to close a contaminated ward.

VRE can spread easily through contact with furniture, railings, drinking taps and handles that have been contaminated by a carrier.

Another superbug killed three elderly patients in October 2006, the first outbreak of necrotising fasciitis in New Zealand, forcing authorities to close down a hospital ward in Christchurch.

- Herald on Sunday

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