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Overcrowding seen in Nightingale-type wards at UHL unusual, says HIQA

05 Mar 2015

The number of nightingale-type wards at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) that have a high number of patients in one room, thus increasing the risk of hospital-associated infections and compromising the patients’ dignity and privacy, has been described as “relatively unusual” by HIQA.

However, a significant portion of the hospital is comprised of much older wards.

“While this in itself is not unusual for an Irish hospital, the number of nightingale-type wards which have a high number of patients in one room as found on wards 1D and 3C, is relatively unusual in an Irish context as observed by the Authority,” states the report of unannounced inspections in November and January by HIQA.

“Both wards have had extra beds placed into each nightingale ward, which led to suboptimal spacing between beds. This increases the risk of transmission of infection.”

This approach to patient accommodation was in response to the hospital’s escalation policy activated due to recent overcrowding in the emergency department.

The inspectors said: “Staff on both wards explained that such overcrowding on the wards in question was a near permanent situation due to overcrowding throughout the hospital. The issue of accommodating patients who require isolation in large multi-bedded wards is a concern for the Authority.”

Bed spacing should be sufficient enough to provide assurances that the risk of spread of healthcare associated infections are minimised, and opportunities for patients who are colonised or infected with infectious pathogens to inadvertently share items with other patients are reduced, the Authority added.

It has recommended that UHL reviews how it prioritises and determines the accommodation of extra patients, particularly those requiring isolation to assure itself that the dignity and privacy of patients is protected and to minimise the risk of transmission of infection.

UHL has implemented risk-mitigation measures between the two unannounced inspections, which demonstrated a commitment to addressing the immediate high risks identified at the time of the first inspection, acknowledges the report.

Lloyd Mudiwa

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Irish Medical Times