A series of reports produced by the Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA) have revealed that there is a high risk of hospital infections in Ireland due to poor hygiene in hospitals.

Five hospitals were inspected during the summer by HIQA – an independent authority which checks on the quality and safety of the Irish Health Service – and their reports show, among other issues, a general lack of hand hygiene which is likely to result in patients, visitors and staff contracting hospital infections.

The worst of the five hospitals was Waterford Regional Hospital; where inspectors observed medical and nursing staff using only five in twenty-three hand hygiene opportunities during their unannounced inspection and found that soap dispensers provided for staff in the Accident & Emergency Department were either empty or blocked by soap residue.

Mould was also found to be developing in toilets and shower units used by patients and – on one occasion – a patient suspected of having a transmittable infection was treated in a general bay of the Accident & Emergency Department – despite isolation units being available.

Hand hygiene issues which were likely to result in hospital infections were also identified during unannounced inspections at St Michael´s Hospital in Dun Laoghaire, Portiuncila Hospital in Galway, Louth County Hospital in Dundalk and Our Lady´s Hospital in Navan – where the walls of the patients´ toilets were described as “heavily stained”.

Rob Landers – Clinical Director at Waterford Regional Hospital – said that the hospital was “extremely disappointed” with the findings published in the report, but reassured patients that it was safe to attend the hospital.

He said that the Accident and Emergency Department had been extremely busy on the day of the inspection and – although he admitted that this was no excuse for potentially transmitting hospital infections – announced that compulsory hand hygiene training would be introduced for all workers at the hospital in the future.

Waterford Regional Hospital has been given six weeks from the date of the report by HIQA to develop a quality improvement plan and post it on the hospital website.