CUH ‘failed to isolate’ infection-risk patients

Failure to isolate 11 patients at risk of spreading infection was among a litany of shortcomings identified by the health watchdog in an inspection of Cork University Hospital (CUH).

Concern was also raised on prevention of waterborne infection. The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) heard that one of the main water storage tanks at CUH had not been cleaned for some time “because of practical difficulties that could be experienced if the tank were to be emptied”.

A site risk-assessment for legionella had not been completed at the time of inspection in July. Hiqa was told a formal independent legionella risk assessment had commenced in June.

Hospital management had identified a need for additional personnel to improve infection prevention and control, including a consultant microbiologist, infection prevention and control nurse manager, and a surveillance scientist.

“At the time of inspection, there was no agreed timeframe in which these positions would be sanctioned,” Hiqa said. The need to fill the positions had been escalated to hospital group level for three years.

Inadequate isolation, surveillance and microbiological screening resources at CUH were first entered into the corporate risk register in 2010 and remained ongoing seven years later.

Inspectors said the surgical ward “did not facilitate effective infection prevention and control because of limited isolation facilities, limited space between beds”.

Hiqa was particularly critical of oversight of infection and control measures at executive management level.

On surveillance, inspectors said: “Given that CUH is a tertiary referral hospital with multiple complex specialities, the implementation of targeted surveillance programmes for healthcare-associated infections needs to be progressed.

“This will require the necessary investment and support.”

The hospital was praised for largely good hand hygiene practices and for “significant work since the last Hiqa inspection [2016] to progress improvements in relation to hospital hygiene”.

However, it said: “Improvement... will require improved leadership, governance, and management, both at senior management level, and within the infection prevention and control team.”

The report was published yesterday.

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