MOTHERS and babies at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin are being put at risk of infection because staff are not washing their hands.
A highly critical report has revealed how less than half the staff who were under observation during a hygiene inspector's visit followed the basic rule of infection control.
The unannounced inspection of Holles Street hospital, which looks after some of the country's sickest babies, involved observing staff on 20 occasions after touching a patient or their surroundings.
But they only washed their hands on nine occasions -- posing a risk of passing on infections to patients.
The report from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) warned that a "a culture of hand hygiene is not yet operationally embedded throughout the hospital.
"The authority found that 45pc of the hand-hygiene opportunities observed by the authority during the monitoring assessment were taken by hospital staff".
Despite annual hand-hygiene training being mandatory at the time of the monitoring assessment, records demonstrated that only 49pc of staff had attended training in 2013.
The hospital was unable to identify individual staff members who had not attended hand-hygiene training in 2013, to facilitate targeted training for non-attendees.
Some clinical hand-wash sinks did not comply with the HSE's Health Protection Surveillance Centre's Guidelines for Hand Hygiene.
Although it found the hospital was generally clean there were some exceptions:
* A clinical hand-wash sink in the postnatal ward was not accessible at all times as it was located in a patient's bed area.
* A mould-like substance was visible at the junction behind the hand-wash sink and the wall in the clean utility room .
* There was paint missing from tiles on the wall behind the hand-wash sink and it was found to be dirty with a slight mould-like substance visible.
* In other observations the sink in the 'dirty' utility room in one antenatal unit was used both as the designated hand-wash sink and for cleaning patient equipment.
* Grit was visible on surfaces in the corners of floors and a light layer of dust was visible on bedframes.
* A moderate layer of dust was visible on patients' bedside tables.
In addition not all patient equipment was stored safely, with the HIQA report saying that this presented a risk of injury to patients.
A second inspection report on Beaumont Hospital in Dublin which followed a visit last month showed it had improved standards since July when staff were found to be breaching hand-washing rules.
The inspectors who visited in November found some practices still put patients at risk.
The authority observed that significant numbers of patients did not have documented confirmation that they were informed they had MRSA.
The hospital's Infection Prevention and Control Team reported that this situation was due to staffing constraints and that it planned to resume the service.