The Minister for Health, Mary Harney, has said that hospitals need to look at limiting visiting times to reduce infections such as MRSA.

Speaking at a clean hospital summit in Dublin, Minister Harney said that relatives and friends visiting very sick patients from morning to evening was not always in the interests of care, or the smooth running of hospitals.

Ms Harney also said she had written to Professor Brendan Drumm, head of the Health Service Executive, to say that private beds in public hospitals should be used first as isolation rooms, if needed by public patients.

Stephen McMahon of the Irish Patients' Association told the meeting that many hospitals are still only meeting minimum international hygiene standards.

He said that last year there were close to 600 reported cases of MRSA blood stream infections.