Reports published by the Health Information Quality Authority following unannounced visits by their inspectors have revealed a poor standard of hygiene in Irish hospitals.
Five hospitals were inspected during June and July by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) – an independent body which scrutinises the quality and safety of the health service in Ireland – and a general lack of hand hygiene was found in each.
Furthermore, inspectors discovered issues such as patients with suspected communicable diseases being treated in open bays of Accident and Emergency Departments and the doors of isolation units – where patients with transmittable diseases were being treated – being left open as standard practise.
Among a catalogue of issues, the poor standard of hygiene in Irish hospitals was exemplified by inspectors finding five hygienic gel dispensers empty at the Waterford Regional Hospital; with several more blocked by congealed soap, and mould growing in patients´ shower units and around toilet areas.
In addition to the Waterford Regional Hospital, a poor standard of hygiene at Irish hospitals was identified at:-
St Michael´s Hospital in Dun Laoghaire
Portiuncila Hospital in Galway
Louth County Hospital in Dundalk
Our Lady´s Hospital in Navan
Commenting on the damming report into hygiene standards at Waterford Regional Hospital, its Clinical Director – Rob Landers – said that the hospital was “extremely disappointed” with the findings of the inspectors, but added that the hospital´s Accident and Emergency Department was extremely busy on the day that the inspectors made their unannounced visit.
He said that compulsory hand hygiene training would be introduced for all workers at the hospital in the future and that future hygiene breaches would become a disciplinary matter. Mr Landers reassured patients that it was safe to attend Waterford Regional Hospital despite the finding in HIQA´s report.
The husband of Savita Halappanavar has announced that he is seeking compensation for hospital negligence after the HSE report was release into the circumstances of her death in October last year.
Savita died at the University Hospital in Galway one week after having attended the Accident and Emergency department complaining of acute back pain. She was found to be in the process of miscarrying her 17 week foetus and was sent home.
Savita returned to the hospital later in the day as the pain had not subsided and was admitted under the care of consultant doctor Dr Katherine Astbury. Savita´s waters broke the following morning and requested a termination, but was told to “await events” as an abortion was not possible while there was still a foetal heartbeat.
Savita´s condition continued to deteriorate – during which time she was misdiagnosed by Dr Astbury as suffering from sepsis after the consultant doctor had failed to read the patient notes made the previous evening. Dr Astbury eventually consulted with a senior colleague about a termination, but a scan later revealed that Savita´s baby was already dead.
After being moved into theatre, Savita spontaneously delivered her deceased baby and was later moved into intensive care suffering from septic shock. The following morning it was discovered that Savita had developed severe septicaemia due to E.coli ESBL, due to which she became critically ill and, on Sunday October 28th, she suffered a cardiac arrest and died of multiple organ failure.
A verdict of medical misadventure was delivered at the inquest into Savita´s death, but a subsequent Health Service Executive investigation failed to identify who was to blame for the negligent treatment Savita received or acknowledge liability for her death; prompting family and friends to describe the investigation as a “whitewash”.
In order to get answers to the questions which remain after the investigation, Savita´s husband – Praveen Halappanavar – has made a claim for compensation for hospital negligence against the University Hospital Galway and the HSE alleging that the hospital failed to treat, failed to follow up blood tests, and failed to diagnose.
The University Hospital Galway and the HSE have not yet indicated whether they will acknowledge liability before a court date is arranged to resolve the claim for hospital negligence compensation.
The rate of disease-causing E.coli cases in Ireland is one of highest in Europe, with verotoxigenic E.coli rates over five times the European average. A recent report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) says that Irish verotoxigenic E.coli rates doubled in Ireland between 2008 and 2009 and increased threefold in the past four years.
More than half of E.coli cases in Ireland are E.coli 0157, which spreads to human food through the faeces of animals and can cause serious illness and occasionally deaths. The recent outbreak of E.coli 0157 infections in a Vancouver daycare centre in April this year, which hospitalised multiple children and resulted in the death of one child, highlights the dangers of infections.
The EFSA confirms multiple listeriosis cases in Ireland every year. This particular infection is caused by the listeria bacterium and often affects newborn babies and people with weak immune systems.
Some of the listeriosis symptoms include vomiting, nausea, stomach cramps, and diarrhoea. Listeria rates in Irish retail shops is 4.3% in ready-to-eat salads, 1.7% in pre-cut fruit and vegetables, and a 4.3% rate in poultry meat.
Salmonella is a common cause of food poisoning, with nearly 500 cases annually in Ireland, meaning one in 10,000 Irish people. Salmonella can be caused by contact with infected people and some rarer sources such as polluted surface water or contact with reptiles. But the most common causes are unhygienically thawed fowl and unclean food, particularly in institutional kitchens and restaurants.
Retailers and restaurants have a clear duty-of-care to their clients regarding the hygiene standards.
If you suffer from food poisoning, you need to get proper medical treatment immediately in case the poisoning degrades into a serious condition. You also need to preserve any food samples that you suspect may have caused your food poisoning and the receipts to prove where you purchased the food. You should contact a solicitor as soon as possible in case laboratory tests need to be arranged on any food samples. Your solicitor will also help you reporting the incident to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (this is important in case there is an outbreak). Your solicitor will be able to find out if there have been previous incidents of food poisoning from the same source, which is an important factor in any injury claims.