Poor hand hygiene found at Limerick hospital

Mike Dwane

Reporter:

Mike Dwane

MOTHERS and babies are at risk of infection at the Mid-Western Regional Maternity Hospital over lax hand hygiene practice by staff, according to a HIQA investigation.

MOTHERS and babies are at risk of infection at the Mid-Western Regional Maternity Hospital over lax hand hygiene practice by staff, according to a HIQA investigation.

The HSE has vowed to strengthen training in hand hygiene and pointed out that much of the HIQA audit was “extremely positive and complimentary of the service and the staff involved in its delivery”.

Three inspectors spent over four hours at the Ennis Road hospital during an unannounced visit in November to assess the Maternity’s general cleanliness and compliance with hand hygiene best practice.

The report concludes that while there were no “immediate serious risks to the healt of patients”, poor hand hygiene did present a lower level risk of hospital-acquired infections.

Inspectors had found “unlocked and accessible clinical waste bins under the stairwell which was used as a thoroughfare for patients attending outpatient clinics” but this had been rectified on being brought to the attention of management.

The report reserves its harshest criticism on the issue of hand-washing.

“The Authority found that the hand hygiene observations suggested that a culture of hand hygiene practices was not embedded at all levels at Mid-Western Regional Maternity Hospital. HIQA was concerned that the level of compliance with hand hygiene practices in Mid-Western Regional Maternity poses a risk to patients,” the report stated.

“The Authority observed 20 hand hygiene opportunities during the monitoring assessment. However, only 13 opportunities were taken and of those, only five were observed to comply with best practice hand hygiene techniques. The hospital must evaluate the level of hand hygiene compliance in the context of infection rates in order to assess the impact on patients and implement the required improvements,” the report added.

Responding to the HIQA report, a spokesperson for the HSE said it was working with staff on improving hand hygiene.

“Despite much emphasis on hand hygiene in our hospital, we are disappointed that we were observed to have suboptimal levels of hand hygiene compliance on the day in question. Since the audit, much work has been ongoing in this area,” he said, adding that this included refresher training for staff and technical assessments of sinks and taps.

“This enhanced training will be further strengthened in February when it is planned to ‘blitz’ hand hygiene compliance throughout the hospital,” the spokesman said.