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Monday 4 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C

Surprise hospital checks uncover dirty portable toilets and mattresses

HIQA says all hospitals could do more to improve hand hygiene.

Unannounced_hygiene_inspection HIQA HIQA

SURPRISE CHECKS found that there were unclean portable toilets and dirty mattresses in some hospitals.

Health watchdog HIQA discovered that there were unclean commodes (portable toilets) in 76% of hospitals checked, unclean mattresses in half the hospitals, and unclean blood sugar monitors in 24% of hospitals.

It carried out 54 unannounced inspections in 49 hospitals, which included five re-inspections within six weeks.

Poor hand hygiene practice among some healthcare staff continues to place patients at unnecessary risk of acquiring an infection, said HIQA.


Overall, it discovered that hand hygiene is “generally improving”, but unclean patient equipment is a problem.

But it said that all hospitals “could do more to improve hand hygiene and environmental cleanliness”.

The follow-up re-inspections were carried out “due to particularly poor compliance with standards and in order to promote rapid improvement between unannounced inspections”.

Risks to patients

Serious risks to patient safety were identified in a number of inspections, with HIQA issuing immediate high-risk letters to seven out of the 49 hospitals inspected.

The main high-risk issues related to:

  • Environment and facilities management
  • Hand hygiene
  • Communicable and/or transmissible disease control
  • Microbiological services

Inspectors regularly found poor access to hand hygiene gel dispensers for staff and hand-wash sinks that didn’t meet specifications.

HIQA said that unclean commodes, “constitutes an increased risk of transmission of serious Healthcare Associated Infections such as Clostridium difficile”.

HIQA’s Acting Director of Regulation Mary Dunnion said:

Patients have the right to expect that equipment used as part of their care is clean in the first instance and cleaned after use when it is shared with other patients. Hospital management need to tackle the problems head on by prioritising environmental cleaning and maintenance in patient areas, and by supporting and ensuring staff compliance with hand hygiene training and implementation.

She added that patients can play an important role in improving hand hygiene.

We are recommending that patients and relatives should be made aware by hospitals of how to keep their hands clean as a matter of routine.

HIQA’s report identified the need for improved internal checking procedures for hand hygiene practice in some hospitals.

Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD suggested that “there can be no doubt that poor hygiene is intrinsically linked with overcrowding and staff shortages”.

Read the full HIQA report here.

Read: Sticky residue and stains found on equipment at Limerick hospital>

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