'Cancer patients at risk of infection in unhygienic units' - Hiqa inspectors
Hygiene inspectors have expressed concern about a range of serious failings which are putting cancer patients at risk of infections in oncology units across the country.
They found that hospital wards were outdated and inadequate to meet the needs of the high number of patients being treated.
The overview of hygiene inspections during 2015 by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) found that some also had insufficient isolation facilities, not enough toilets and inadequate medication preparation and storage areas.
The overview of 39 unannounced inspections carried out in 32 public hospitals in 2015 showed poor levels of cleanliness in most of the hospitals inspected.
There was a significant increase in the number of re-inspections required, with one in five hospitals requiring a further visit.
"This represents a significant increase compared to 2014, where one in 10 hospitals required re-inspection," said Susan Cliffe, head of healthcare at Hiqa.
Hospitals that needed a re-inspection included: Kerry General; Letterkenny General; Mullingar; the National Maternity Hospital; Our Lady of Lourdes, Drogheda; Portiuncula Hospital Ballinasloe; Galway and the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital, Cork.
Inspectors called for better labelling and storage of intravenous medication. Risks were found in preparation of anaesthetic and emergency medicines, as well as intravenous fluids in advance of giving them to patients. These medicines had been stored incorrectly and in some cases left unattended.
The need for better training of cleaning staff was highlighted. Hospitals complained of a lack of capital funding for maintenance and infrastructure.
Overcrowding also impacted on the ability of some hospitals to carry out these remedial works.
The inspectors found that some operating theatres and critical care units were not fit for purpose, with limited spacing between patients.
In one hospital, the same mop was used for dusting and cleaning floors.
Inspectors were critical of the care of some patient equipment. Unclean commodes were a problem in three out of four hospitals in 2014, while it improved last year they were still not clean in half of hospitals.
Unclean commodes pose an risk of spreading the superbug Clostridium difficile. Overall, five hospitals had increased the incidence of the bug last year.
Progress has been made by staff in following the key infection-control rule of washing hands.