PATIENTS in the largest hospital in the country are at serious risk because of a failure by staff to wash their hands.
An unannounced inspection of St James’s Hospital in Dublin last month revealed that staff flouted infection-control rules on more than half the occasions when they should have washed their hands.
It is the second “centre of excellence” - caring for some of the sickest patients in the country - to be criticised over failure to wash hands between patients and follows the recent damning report on Beaumont Hospital.
“The degree of non-compliance with standard precautions for infection prevention and control regarding hand hygiene poses a serious risk to patients,” said the report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).
The inspectors who visited the unit dealing with plastic surgery and the emergency department found:
*the water outlet in the sink was blocked and two used surgical instruments were left on window sill;
*the treatment room had a hand basin which was obstructed by a waste bin and three leg rests;
*another sink in a corridor was stained and had grit. Cupboards were unsecured even though they had hazardous solutions.
They found the hospital’s emergency department was cluttered due to overcrowding which made it difficult to keep clean.
A separate inspection of the Eye and Ear Hospital in Dublin a few days later found staff just complied with hand washing on eleven of the 17 occasions under observation.
There was evidence that fibroscopes - instruments used to inspect the eye - were not being decontaminated properly and they were handled by staff using non-sterile gloves.
In the two areas assessed, including the emergency department, the environment was generally “unclean”.
Some clinical equipment used for ear irrigation was worn and difficult to clean.
Dust and cobwebs were found under the surface of two chairs used by patients.
A third hospital, St Columcille’s in Loughlinstown in Dublin had contract staff working on fire safety in St Anne’s ward, who were not aware of hand hygiene safety precautions even though they were in patient areas during the day.
Staff just washed their hands on 17 of the 24 occasions they should have done so.
Bins with sharp needles were not fully secured in the utility room.
A further inspection of Kerry General Hospital in Tralee found staff ignored the need to wash their hands on eleven occasions during the visit and there was also evidence of clutter and unsecured chemical storage and clinical waste.
By Eilish O’Regan Health Correspondent