THE best known children's hospital in the country has been accused of putting young patients at "clear and serious risk" due to poor hygiene standards.
Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin was singled out for criticism in the latest report by health watchdog HIQA.
Inspectors observed three commodes soiled but not emptied and an uncapped needle on the floor of a treatment room.
The shock report said that all the areas assessed, with the exception of the emergency department, were found to be unclean during the unannounced inspection.
A black, mould-like substance was observed in one ward.
Washbowls, jugs and funnels were discovered inappropriately stored on top of a bedpan washer. Inspectors stated the hospital had no clear hygiene management system, even though it is an old building.
HIQA found that patients were at serious risk of infection in almost half of the 13 hospitals examined, including Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, west Dublin.
"This is unacceptable and has nothing to do with cutbacks or economic management," said Fine Gael TD for Dublin Mid West Derek Keating.
"Many of my constituents have to use these hospitals. I demand changes and action to ensure that the hospitals are fit for purpose," he added.
In some hospitals, patients who had a disease that could spread to others were in open areas of emergency departments. Among the hygiene faults discovered were dust and dirt on surfaces, soiled bedpans, black residue in shower areas and blood stains.
At Connolly, a patient with an infectious disease was treated in an open cubicle in the emergency department. A cleaner was also observed leaving an isolation area to get a waste bag and mop wearing an apron and gloves.
HIQA said poor hand washing practices in many Irish hospitals is putting patients at risk of infection.
The authority's director of regulation Phelim Quinn said: "Many facilities were observed to be clean and free from visible dirt and clutter, with appropriate infection control signage and practices in place, and the work of hospital staff should be acknowledged in ensuring high levels of cleanliness that were found in some units.
"However, further improvements are required in a range of areas." Crumlin Hospital has responded to the report's findings, it said. Since the inspection took place in December, the hospital has taken steps to improve cleanliness, it revealed.
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