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Minister suggests 'Florence Nightingale campaign' to tackle hand hygiene in hospitals

Kathleen Lynch said it was “incredible” that hospital staff had to be told to wash their hands.

File Photo
File Photo
Image: Igor Normann via Shutterstock

A JUNIOR HEALTH minister has suggested that there could be a ‘Florence Nightingale campaign’ to urge people working in health facilities to wash their hands.

Minister of State Kathleen Lynch told the Dáil it is “incredible” that people working in hospitals have to be told to wash their hands but said that there had been improvements in hand hygiene compliance in the HSE.

“Maybe we should call this the Florence Nightingale campaign? Maybe we must remind people that washing your hands is important?” she told the Dáil.

Lynch was speaking in response to a Topical Issue raised by Labour TD Ciara Conway. She continued:

“I wonder how many people that work in hospitals when they are returning to their own homes would actually cook their dinner without washing their hands?”

The issue was raised in the context of recent reports by the health watchdog HIQA one of which warned that patients at Waterford Regional Hospital were at risk with just five of 23 hand washing opportunities taken by staff.


Conway, a Waterford TD, said there are no consequences for public hospitals that continually fail to meet basic hygiene standards.

The Labour deputy said: “Consistently we have failures by some of the most educated people in this country to do something as basic as washing their hands.”

Lynch said that the Minister for Health notes the concerns related to hand hygiene and believed that “best practice needs to become more operationally embedded”.

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She said there is personal responsibility on healthcare workers to be conscious of their hand hygiene and said she is “extremely disappointed” that not all workers are adhering to these standards.

She said that under HSE rules hand hygiene training is mandatory every two years and said that audits have shown an “encouraging improvement” with cases of MRSA down.

But Lynch added that this is no cause for complacency.

Read: Patients at risk at ‘unclean’ Waterford Regional Hospital by lack of hand washing

HIQA: Poor hand-washing in Irish hospitals potentially putting patients at risk

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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