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Patients at infection risk due to poor hand-hygiene

HIQA has found that a number of hospitals, including St. James in Dublin, are falling below required hand-hygiene standards.

St. James' hand hygiene standards were 'poor' say inspectors.
St. James' hand hygiene standards were 'poor' say inspectors.
Image: Wanderley Massafelli/Photocall Ireland

HAND-HYGIENE STANDARDS have been criticised  in a number of hospitals across the country after a series of inspections by the Health, Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).

The largest hospital in the state, St. James’ Hospital in Dublin, was among those criticised with inspectors describing hand-hygiene practices at the hospital as ‘poor’ and posing a risk to patients of infection. Other criticisms of the hospital included ‘blood-stained cotton wool’ being visible in waste bins and a degree of clutter that obstructed access to hand wash sinks.

HIQA said in its St James’ report that hand-hygiene is “recognised internationally is the single most important preventative measure in the transmission of infection in healthcare services”.

The authority advises that it is essential that a culture of hand-hygiene practice be embedded in every service at all levels.

HIQA released the inspection reports of five hospitals today, four or these inspections were unannounced with one of them flagged in advance.

Letterkenny General Hospital

The announced inspection of Letterkenny was carried out on 5 June and found that the facility had improved since an initial unannounced assessment but some of its criticisms included:

  • Poor hand hygiene and ’problematic’ attendance at hand hygiene training leading to a significant risk to patients of infections.
  • Damaged doorframes.
  • Unsecured cupboards containing three boxes of powder disinfectant.

Kerry General Hospital

The unannounced inspection of Kerry was carried out on 22 August and found the facility to be ‘generally clean’ but some of its criticisms included:

  • A heavy layer of dust noted on an ECG machine.
  • 11 out of 22 hand-hygiene opportunities not complied with.
  • Unsecured chemical storage, clinical waste and clinical equipment.

St. James’ Hosptital

The unannounced inspection of St. James’ was carried out on 13 August with HIQA saying they will conduct a follow-up inspection of the facility. Some of their criticisms included:

  • An unsecured holding room for contaminated equipment enabling unauthorised access.
  • Blood-stained cotton wool noted in a non-risk waste bin.
  • Bins without closure mechanisms to mitigate against needlestick injuries.
  • A degree of non-compliance of hand hygiene procedures that poses a risk to patients.

A spokesperson for St. James’ acknowledged that there were issues to be addressed:

Although the HIQA report recognises that there was evidence of good practice, the hand hygiene findings are below what St James’s normally expects and achieves. St James’s Hospital will continue working closely with HIQA to ensure best practice in all areas and will continue to keep our patient advocacy committee fully informed.

HIQA’S healthcare monitoring reports, including those released today for the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital and St. Columcille’s Hospital in Dublin, can be accessed on the authority’s website.

Read: Drugs fridge in unsecure area left unlocked at Beaumont Hospital >

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

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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