THE new reports showing that several hospitals are a health risk highlight just how far lax cleanliness standards have crept back.
Watchdog inspectors from the Health Information and Quality Authority had not swooped on hospitals for more than two years. But their renewed round of visits found several threats to patients, including blatant breaches of basic rules.
In some cases there was a worrying failure to wash hands between patients, or people with transmissable diseases were placed for hours in or around emergency departments. The classic excuse is that hospitals are under pressure from cuts in budgets and reductions in staff. But as the reports reveal, the major sins have little to do with resources and just amount to carelessness.
Washing hands between patients, using soap and water or gel, is known to be the number one action that staff can take to reduce infection spread. Yet, as other surveys show, doctors in particular are ignoring this – as are many nurses.
The inspectors also point to other lapses such as leaving unemptied commodes lying around or an unlabelled specimen jar in the bathroom next to toiletries.
When public fears were at their height in recent years, a new system of line management was introduced to ensure that, when it came to infection control, the buck stopped at the top.
Clearly, that system has been allowed to slip and the old motivator of name and shame may be the only way to get back on track.