Just weeks after outbreak of a deadly bug, staff still fail to wash hands properly
SEVERAL staff in a hospital at the centre of a major outbreak of the superbug C Difficile were not washing their hands properly just weeks after 21 patients became ill with the potentially life-threatening illness.
According to a damning report, hygiene inspectors who visited Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda on December 16 also observed a layer of grime in the waiting area within the outpatient department and "toys were visibly unclean".
There was also dust in a surgical ward which had been cleaned and decontaminated in the previous five weeks as it was one of the areas affected by the outbreak, the report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) revealed.
Proper hand washing is the key to reducing the spread of bugs and viruses -- including swine flu -- but the inspectors found all opportunities to practise hand hygiene were not taken by staff and their technique did not always comply with "best practice".
Inspectors also discovered that no alcohol hand gels were available in the outpatient department. Staff also had difficulties accessing sinks in the emergency department due to their location and because there was not enough of them.
The hospital declared a C Diff outbreak in October, cancelling operations and restricting visitors. About 21 patients contracted the infection and all deaths were referred to the coroner, some of which may be directly linked to the bug.
At the time of its hygiene assessment, HIQA inspectors said the outbreak at the 340-bed hospital had not yet been declared over.
In the majority of the areas they visited, the standard of hygiene was only "fair".
In one of the maternity wards, residue with a mould-like appearance was seen in most windows, the floor corners and under sinks.
Torn chairs were observed in four of the areas visited. Lids on waste bins were broken in the maternity ward and outpatient department. Clinical waste was stored in unlocked sluice rooms in most areas visited.
The only sink available in the outpatient department's minor operation room also failed to meet guidelines.
Hand-washing posters were not always on display at each sink in four of the areas visited, according to the report.
The inspectors concluded the hospital had not maintained its level of performance in the delivery of the hygiene services when compared to 2008.
A hospital spokesperson last night said it acknowledged standards were not satisfactory and said the problems were being addressed as "a matter of urgency".
It has restocked sanitising gels and said they were temporarily removed at the time of inspection to promote hand washing, which is the only "effective method" of preventing transmission of C Diff spores.
Hand-hygiene audits are now regularly carried out and a thorough cleaning of windows, ceilings, kitchens and under sinks has already been completed.