Health officials who faced a grilling over hygiene standards in hospitals revealed they have struggled to persuade even top doctors to observe cleanliness guidelines.
After a damning inspection report criticised low hygiene standards earlier this week, representatives from the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust were questioned by MLAs on the Assembly Health Committee yesterday, who raised a litany of complaints over basic hygiene.
DUP committee member Iris Robinson said common sense was being ignored and claimed she had even seen a doctor go for a haircut while still wearing his operating theatre garments.
But Dr Tony Stevens, Medical Director at the trust, said: “I now have very robust conversations with doctors who find it impossible to take their watch off, or can't roll their sleeves up.
“I’m more than happy to deal with any surgeon who gets a haircut in his theatre blues. I will personally have him in and he will be in no doubt.”
The report sparked angry comments from committee members after the document revealed serious concerns over staff practices in decontaminating and disinfecting patient equipment at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.
RQIA inspection teams highlighted similar problems at the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald, while the conditions at the Royal Victoria and Musgrave Park hospitals in Belfast were also flagged up during the series of unannounced visits over the last six months. The report on the RVH in May prompted hospital bosses to close a neurosurgical ward for refurbishment.
By comparison, cleanliness standards at Antrim Area Hospital were found to be high, while Whiteabbey, South Tyrone and Erne hospitals also scored better than the Belfast facilities examined.