Bird droppings put hospital patients at risk - watchdog
Bird droppings, operating theatres that are not fit for purpose and poorly cleaned patient equipment have been discovered by inspectors during a round of six hospital inspections.
They found the bird droppings on the exterior of several window panes and some sills of windows at St Joseph's ward in Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe, Co Galway, in April.
The problem is so bad that the hospital has had to call on ultrasonic scarers which aim to use noise to drive away the birds.
"Accumulation of bird excreta has the potential to increase the risk of transmission of infectious agents to vulnerable patients," the inspectors from the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) warned.
Hospitals are responsible for ensuring that there is a programme or service that cleans and disinfects areas that are contaminated in addition to pest control, said the inspection report.
In response the hospital has started a sanitising programme to clean the exterior of the hospital and plans to introduce a variety of measures including "hawk ultrasound" which gives out sounds to annoy birds and try to keep them away. They are also trying out more lighting and netting.
In a separate visit to the South Infirmary Hospital in Cork in April and May the inspectors said the design and infrastructure of four of its seven operating theatres made them not fit for purpose. They failed to provide the necessary standard for effective infection prevention.
"The authority was informed that the risks identified have been placed on the hospital risk register and have been escalated to hospital group level. Capital funding has been sought to address the issues."
The inspectors were told that decommissioning the theatres would affect patients on waiting lists and the capital funding needed for refurbishment had yet to be approved.
The inspectors also criticised the level of hand washing in the theatre department and highlighted the lack of specialised equipment to reprocess contaminated bedpans and urinals in the department.
Unsafe medication practices were also observed in theatre. The infrastructure of the oncology unit also needs to be reviewed.
Both hospitals needed re-inspection by the inspectors.
Other inspection reports revealed that the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital in Dublin was generally clean and well maintained.
But it needed to improve the arrangements for storage of cleaning equipment and the cleaning of some patient equipment.
And there was need for significant improvement in Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital in Dublin.
Inspectors pointed to the need for more cleanliness.
The hospital was urged to reviews its cleaning practices.
There were also lapses in hand washing with a lack of understanding from some staff in relation to the "five moments" of hand hygiene.
Meanwhile, in St Columcille's Hospital in Loughlinstown, Dublin, inspectors found an external company was managing control of legionella in the water system.
While satisfied, Hiqa had concerns around the level of corporate knowledge within the hospital about the arrangements in place, according to the inspection report.