THE Maelor Hospital is the only one in Wales to feature in the top 10 for the number of deaths related to the superbug MRSA in 2002.
But a spokesman claims that infection rates have improved greatly since those figures were compiled.
The Wrexham hospital comes equal sixth in the league table according to figures released by the Office of National Statistics in response to a request from an MP.
The ONS figures show 10 deaths where methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus was a contributory cause. These accounted for 0.8% of all deaths at the hospital.
In 2002 only five hospitals in England and Wales had a greater tally of MRSA-related deaths, with Derriford Hospital in Plymouth totalling 22, Birmingham Heartlands Hospital 17, Queen Alexandra in Portsmouth 15, Medway Maritime in Kent 13 and the General Infirmary in Leeds 11.
The Maelor Hospital was quick to point out that the most recent figures published by the National Public Health Service (NPHS) for Wales have shown infection rates in the North East Wales NHS Trust in the 12 months to the end of December 2003 were less than half the level recorded during the 12 months up to the end of June 2002 and have been falling steadily during this period.
Hospital spokesman Andy Scotson said-These figures are a reflection of the lead-ership of our infection control team and the efforts being made by our staff to minimise the spread of infectious disease.
'Education and awareness sessions are highlighting the importance of good hygiene practices to our staff, and we undertake monitoring of hand-washing practice within our clinical areas.
'Additional measures such as the introduction of disinfecting hand-rubs have also contributed to the improvements that have been achieved here.
'Figures showing the infection rates in hospitals in England quote the number of cases per 1,000 bed-days. Our rate was 0.07 for 2003, which would make us equal 10th best performing general hospital, out of more than 110, if we were in England, so I think we're doing very well.'
But Mr Scotson added: 'Of course, with up to one-third of the general population carrying the MRSA bacteria, we cannot avoid it coming into our hospitals. However, we must continue in our efforts to ensure that opportunities for infection are minimised and to monitor for MRSA very carefully.'
Although MRSA is common among the population, it has proved to be a problem in hospitals because it can enter the bloodstream through open wounds and is very resistant to most antibiotics.
A spokesman for the Welsh Assembly said: 'Care must be taken not to misinterpret the figures provided by ONS. The statistics relate to deaths contributed to by MRSA and not deaths caused by MRSA in the year 2002.
'The ONS itself advises that it is impossible to put a firm figure to the number of people who die from MRSA, because the underlying cause of death is most often the disease or injury which led them to be admitted to hospital, rather than the MRSA which may have complicated the course of the illness.
'It might be reasonable to expect that a trust with a high proportion of acute beds might experience a higher rate of infections, and similarly differences in the numbers of patients with an increased vulnerability to MRSA may contribute to differences in MRSA rates in different locations.
'It is also important to remember that whilst data represents bacterial infections diagnosed in trusts, this does not mean that they were necessarily acquired in that trust, as cases may be transferred to another trust sub-sequent to diagnosis.
'In the past Wales was regarded as having a bigger MRSA problem than the rest of the UK. However, it transpires that this was simply a reflection of a very successful national reporting scheme in Wales for all isolates of MRSA that had been in place since around 1995.'
The Health Protection Agency and the Office of National Statistics have been asked to produce an audit of deaths caused by MRSA this autumn and report early next year.