Harney urged to witness staff’s hygiene struggle

COME to Kerry General Hospital and see how staff struggle to maintain a safe level of hygiene in overcrowded conditions, Tánaiste and Health Minister Mary Harney was urged yesterday.

Dr Mary McCaffrey, vice president of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA), works as a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Tralee hospital.

She said she and her medical colleagues were deeply upset when Ms Harney insisted last Friday that resources have nothing to do with hospital hygiene.

Kerry General Hospital was recently found to be one of the dirtiest in the country in a national audit of hygiene in acute hospitals and Ms Harney was asked last Friday to comment on the hospital's low rating.

Ms Harney said:

"Hygiene is not a question of resources, but something for management of hospitals."

Dr McCaffrey said: "Kerry General Hospital is bursting at the seams and resources are important. Resources were made available after the last audit and that implies that it is a resource issue."

"I would like to invite the minister to spend a working day with me or another consultant. I know that within an hour of seeing the way the hospital functions she would see things completely differently," she said.

"I felt very personally affronted by her statement as did an awful lot of my medical colleagues."

Dr McCaffrey pointed out that deliveries in the hospital's maternity unit had increased from 1,000 to 1,600 a year in the last 10 years but the work space had remained the same.

A number of additional consultants appointed to the hospital had not been allocated offices and there had been a doubling up of out-patient areas, she said.

Dr McCaffrey said "slip-ups" in hospital hygiene were inevitable where staff were working under pressure in situations where hand-washing sinks and gels were not easily accessible.

She also pointed out that smaller hospitals like Kerry General do not have access to a consultant microbiologist and the number of infection control nurses appointed to smaller hospitals were inadequate to police the situation.

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