Sunday 15 December 2019

Children's hospital worst for flouting handwashing rules

One in three staff are not following orders on handwashing.
One in three staff are not following orders on handwashing.
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

A hospital caring for some of the sickest children in the country has the worst record for staff washing their hands between patients, it has emerged.

Temple Street Hospital in Dublin is bottom of a league table for hand-washing, with 37.6pc of staff not following orders to wash their hands - despite it being known as the most effective way workers can reduce the chances of passing on a potentially-life threatening infection to patients.

The league table for all public and private hospitals shows more than one in three staff were not following orders to wash their hands - signalling a worsening rate of compliance in the past three years.

Other hospitals where hand-washing practices have deteriorated in three years include Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda and Mullingar Hospital.

The figures, which relate to June of this year, were based on audits which were done by the hospitals themselves and sent to the disease watchdog, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

A spokeswoman for Temple St told the Irish Independent the board of directors and management "have cited falling hand hygiene compliance rates as a major concern".

They have identified improvement in compliance as a critical patient safety requirement for the hospital.

She said the failure rate had since dropped from 37.6pc to 27pc. The hospital has been working to improve compliance since the October 2013 audit and has identified the urgent need to communicate the importance and relevance of hand hygiene to all staff and the associated risk implications for patients, she said.

"A dedicated working group has been set up with the explicit task of bringing compliance up to the required 90pc standard by year end," she said. Measures include online training and an internal hospital hygiene awareness campaign."

She added: "It is highly regrettable that in Temple Street all grades of staff performed below the expected standard of 90pc compliance." Asked about the rate of healthcare associated infection she said the main threats such as MRSA fell by less than 1pc in the first half of the year.

The percentage of staff in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital who were not washing their hands was also high at 32pc, up from 28.pc in recent years. Mullingar Hospital has also seen a drop in standards to 32.4pc. Non-compliance was at 25.7 three years ago.

A spokeswoman for Mullingar Hospital said its infection control committee is preparing a quality improvement programme. A vacant post for an infection control nurse has been filled since July and also new staff go through a handwashing induction process.

Nationally, rates of compliance have improved although more than one in 10 hospital wards are putting patient safety at risk by not washing their hands.

Doctors continue to be the worst offenders with one in four flouting the basic infection control rule. Auxiliary staff such as porters and cleaners also have a poor record with 16pc not obeying orders. Nurses are the most conscientious but one in 10 of are also falling down.

The figures come in the wake of trends showing a rise in cases of MRSA reported in the first three months of the year.

Hospital overcrowding and lack of staff have been blamed for contributing to low rates of handwashing. Staff should thoroughly wash and dry their hands before and after caring for a patient, before and after touching any potentially contaminated equipment or dressings, after bed making and before handling food.

Visitors should not sit on a patient's bed and should clean their hands before and after entering the ward.

Irish Independent

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