Poor hand-washing by hospital staff is leaving patients at serious risk of infection, inspectors warned today.
The inspectors, who made unannounced visits to 12 hospitals, discovered a range of lapses in infection control and cleanliness including: dust and dirt on surfaces, soiled bedpans, worn and damaged furniture, black residue in shower areas, splash marks on equipment, and blood stains in various locations.
In some hospitals patients who had a disease which could spread to others were in open areas of busy emergency departments.
“There were also cases where the management of linen and healthcare waste was not in line with official guidance,” the reports from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) warned.
Phelim Quinn, Director of Regulation with HIQA, commented: “A good hand hygiene practice is the single most important measure to protect patients from Healthcare Associated Infections.
Staff at all levels within our hospitals deserve credit for their awareness of the importance of, and the good examples of, hand hygiene practice found by the Authority. This reflects their commitment to patient safety.
“In many cases, however, we found hand hygiene actions were not always undertaken, or carried out in the right way, despite the efforts of the staff involved.
“A number of hospitals have now been asked by HIQA to evaluate their level of hand hygiene compliance, in the context of infection rates, in order to assess the impact on patients.”
“We also found variations in how clean our hospitals are. Many facilities were observed to be clean and free from visible dirt and clutter, with appropriate infection control signage and practices in place, and the work of hospital staff should be acknowledged in ensuring high levels of hospital cleanliness that were found in some units
“During the assessments, some immediate serious risks to patients were also identified. These included the inappropriate accommodation of emergency department patients with communicable/transmissible diseases,” he added.
“These kinds of deficits are not acceptable and required immediate action on the part of clinical and management staff concerned when HIQA’s officers were on site. To date, one facility has been asked to conduct a hospital-wide review of compliance with standards.”
HIQA said it will continue with this programme of announced and unannounced assessments, to ensure that hospitals have implemented their quality improvement plans, in order to provide assurances to the public that the National Standards are being implemented, and that patients are being safeguarded.