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Watchdog raised legionella bacteria concerns with Kerry General Hospital

Published 10/11/2015

The Health Information and Quality Authority made warnings about operating theatres in Kerry General Hospital
The Health Information and Quality Authority made warnings about operating theatres in Kerry General Hospital

Patients in Kerry General Hospital were at immediate and high risk of infection with management failing to monitor the bug which causes the Legionnaires' lung disease, watchdogs have said.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) raised concerns after an unannounced inspection in July also found dilapidated operating theatres which had not been upgraded since opening in 1985.

The inspectors warned about the spread of legionella, commonly found in water supplies and the cause of Legionnaires' disease, and that the hospital had never undergone testing or a formal site risk assessment for the bacteria.

It should have been done every year and independently reviewed biennially.

HIQA said: "Kerry General Hospital did not have robust mechanisms in place to provide assurance that potential risks in relation to legionella in the hospital water system had been effectively assessed, identified and managed."

The Tralee hospital, which serves 145,000 people in Kerry and parts of north Cork and west Limerick and treats 14,000 in-patients a year, was found to have breached national standards for the prevention and control of healthcare infections.

But HIQA said progress was being made by the time of a return visit in August.

Other areas creating risks were the theatres and the oncology day unit, which was said to be outdated, inadequate and not offering enough infection control for chemotherapy patients.

They were being given intravenous medications on chairs within a metre of one another and next to a sink and doors.

Since the July inspection, hospital management have begun to move the unit to a new area.

In the theatres, HIQA said areas of ceilings, walls, woodwork and floors were significantly damaged and worn to the extent that they could not be cleaned effectively.

Their dilapidated conditions allowed the production and accumulation of dust, inspectors said, with money blamed for not upgrading the theatres in 30 years.

HIQA said most of the work needed in the theatres was identified in 2006 and the long-standing infection prevention and control risks were not pro-actively addressed.

In the follow-up inspection, superficial repairs were being made to walls and woodwork in the main theatre corridor and one operating suite had been repainted.

However, HIQA warned multiple deficiencies remained in the theatre areas including infection prevention and control, patient privacy, appropriate facilities for children, waste management, transport of equipment for decontamination, fire regulations and ventilation systems persist.

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