Row over second hygiene audit

DOCTORS and patients have sharply disagreed on the usefulness of having a second hygiene audit in the country’s 46 acute hospitals.

MRSA and Families have said they believe it is a “marvellous idea” that will keep “hygiene to the fore in hospitals”, but the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has said it is “waste of public money and a waste of time.”

Last week, Heath Minister and Tánaiste Mary Harney announced that a second hygiene audit would begin next month. The first audit, published in November, revealed that a shocking 91% of public hospitals fall below an acceptable standard of cleanliness.

IMO vice president Dr Christine O’Malley said that the last audit wasn’t about “hand hygiene or overall hygiene” but about “hygiene facilities.”

“The wrong impression was out there. It was more about soup dispensers, having modern sinks and not about hand-washing. Time and money needs to be invested to get these facilities right before you waste public money doing an audit all over again,” she said.

“With this test, you score the same if you have a clean, chipped wash-hand basin or if you have a dirty one. There is no link between this audit and MRSA figures.”

She said that staff at her hospital had spent two years fighting for elbow-controlled taps on their sinks, with no success. After the audit, these facilities were developed.

The Irish Patients Association said it was “crucial” that progress was monitored following the shocking results of the first audit.

MRSA and Families chairwoman Margaret Dawson said that constant monitoring of hospital cleanliness would “keep hospital management on their toes.”

“It is a hugely important issue and deserves to be treated so... We would eventually like to see directors of hygiene and infection control in every acute hospital in the country,” she said.

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