Hospitals worst hit by A&E crisis suffer drop in hand washing rates
Hospitals which suffer the worst overcrowding have seen a drop in rates of hand washing by staff - leaving patients at risk of infection.
The latest hand hygiene audits, carried out in mid-year, show rates have deteriorated in a number of hospitals including Beaumont and the Mater in Dublin, as well as Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda.
Rates are lowest in Cork University Hospital and St John's Hospital in Limerick where one third of staff are not washing their hands.
Letterkenny Hospital in Donegal tops the league with 96.7pc compliance along with St Luke's Hospital in Rathgar.
Rates are also high in Our Lady's Hospital in Crumlin, the report by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre said.
The report said the rates may not be reflective of healthcare compliance at all times.
"Compliance with hand hygiene is measured by trained, validated auditors observing healthcare workers undertaking patient care," it stated.
Effective hand decontamination, either by washing with soap and water or with an alcohol-based handrub, is seen as crucial in the reducing avoidable infection.
In recent years the number of hospital patients infected with the most feared superbug MRSA has fallen.
Although the official figures are only a portion of the MRSA infections in hospital they provide a reliable measure of how widespread it is.
Large hospitals - which treat the sickest patients with complex conditions - report the highest numbers of cases and do the most testing for the infection.
Many bloodstream infections are acquired in the community but only diagnosed on admission to hospital.
Likewise, a patient may have acquired a bloodstream infection in one hospital but it may only be diagnosed on transfer to another which can influence the rates.
It may not be possible to prevent the bacteria from spreading altogether, but a number of precautions can be taken to reduce the risk of infection.
Invasive MRSA infections can lead to conditions such as blood poisoning, urinary tract infection and pneumonia.