INSPECTORS have found mother and babies at University Maternity Hospital Limerick remain at risk of infection over poor hand hygiene practice by staff and the general state of cleanliness of the wards.
An unannounced inspection by HIQA took place on July 10 to follow up on a similar surprise visit last November. And while the inspectors identified no immediate risks to patients and acknowledged some improvements had been made, there were still shortcomings which “present health and safety concerns and risk to patients of contracting healthcare associated infections”.
Proper hand hygiene practices were crucial in reducing hospital bugs but the HIQA spot check in July actually found staff were less likely to wash their hands in July than they had been in November.
Inspectors had observed only 13 of 23 “hand hygiene opportunities” - 10 of which related to directly touching patients - taken by staff in July.
Thirteen of 20 such opportunities had been taken last November and the HSE had pledged in the interim to “blitz hand hygiene compliance throughout the hospital”.General cleanliness in the wards also fell short of national standards during the July inspection with the inspectors identifying dust and grime on floors, walls and equipment; chipped furniture; and “encrusted, solidified matter” on baby cots. Management of clinical waste was also found to be non-compliant although HIQA was shown evidence that the hospital was working towards bringing this area up to scratch.
The inspectors findings “suggest that although some improvement has been achieved, the physical environment, waste management and cleanliness of patient equipment were still not effectively managed and maintained to protect service users and reduce the spread of healthcare associated infections”.
The HSE said“immediate serious risk to the health and welfare of patients” had been identified. “The hospital took immediate steps to address the findings in relation to these issues and are in the process of implementing an action plan to address the deficiencies.”Frank Keane, directorate manager, maternal and child care, said the hospital valued HIQA’s role in elevating standards but observed that the physical condition of the Maternity -would require “significant capital funding” in the long-term to ensure compliance.“We recognise the importance of hand hygiene and its significant role in infection control prevention and we have been working to improve our hand hygiene compliance. provide hand hygiene training to all staff – this is mandatory training and is repeated frequently,” Mr Keane said.
HIQA has required to HSE to implement a quality improvement plan and the hospital can expect another spot check some time over the next six months.