Editorial

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Doctors need a clean record in hand hygiene

Published 14/11/2012|05:00

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IRISH doctors are not unique in having a poor record when it comes to washing their hands between hospital patients.

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Several hygiene audits in other countries have found that they are the worst offenders among hospital staff. The latest figures from the Health Service Executive (HSE) show that more than three in 10 doctors were not taking precautions, despite knowing they are putting patients at risk of a potentially life-threatening infection like MRSA.

The HSE does not ask why doctors are breaching this cardinal infection control rule. But doctors have traditionally insisted they are busy people with many patients to examine and treat.

Their mind is so focused on their healing role they forget to use the wash-hand basin or alcohol hand rub.

The basins and hand rub may also not be conveniently available in several hospitals.

What is even more worrying is that this audit involved an observational study. One presumes the doctors were aware the researcher was nearby with their clipboard.

It begs the question: what happens when they are not being monitored?

Nurses are the most diligent for handwashing. But the overall compliance rate for all staff is still just 81.6pc.

Clearly there is still a cultural problem in our hospitals with following this basic precaution.

Allowing for the pressures on health staff, the findings signal that a stricter approach must be taken by hospitals, up to and including disciplinary action for putting patients' lives at risk.

Irish Independent

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