I SAW a report last week stating that poor standards of hygiene and infection controls at Tallaght Hospital meant there is a high risk to the welfare of its patients. I can’t comment on the state of the hospital because I haven’t been there in years, but I’ll bet a lot of the problems have nothing to do with the staff. I reckon it’s the people who visit the hospital.
Most of the hospitals in this country are governed by the same body, and there is a common set of rules and guidelines to which they all adhere. High on any hospital agenda is the necessity to protect it from litigation, and no hospital wants to be blamed for infections.
If you go through any of the entrances to any hospital in this country, you will see dispenser after dispenser of hand sanitiser and enough signage to sink a battleship advising people to use them. They are also located along the corridors, in toilets, in the wards and in waiting rooms – in fact, wherever you look, you will see one.
But do we, the general public, use them? A minority, that’s all, even though anyone will tell you that hand hygiene is probably the most important area on which to concentrate if you want to minimise infection.
Tallaght, it would seem, was penalised for ‘unacceptable levels of dust on bed frames’, a spec of blood on the floor and so forth. The level of hand hygiene, or rather the lack of it, was also criticised. But did anyone think to complain about the high level of visitors who simply refuse to avail of all the hand lotion that would go a long way towards reducing risks to patients? I bet they didn’t.
It is easy to blame someone for shortcomings in the system. But all systems have shortcomings which cannot be rectified if the majority of people – in this case visitors and patients alike – don’t buy into the notion of trying to improve the situation.
We are all equally to blame. We seek perfection when it is simply impossible to achieve, especially when we are not willing to do our part.
As it is, the health service is creaking at the knees. We all look for more improvements, but a simple task like washing our hands on entry to such a facility as Tallaght hospital is beyond us. Yet when there is an outbreak of infection and someone we hold dear to us is a victim, we are quick to play the blame game.
If we want a service to improve, we should be prepared to help it along by doing what we are asked. The effort it takes to use a sanitiser is negligible, but the cost of carrying out a deep-clean at a hospital after an outbreak of some infection or other is enormous. We are all looking to get better value for our taxes, but to do that we should look closer to home first and see how we can help the system along. If we all do that and the system continues to fail, then we can legitimately criticise and look for answers.