New reports from the Health Information and Quality Authority suggest that poor hand-washing practice in some Irish hospitals is potentially putting patients at risk.

HIQA has published four hygiene and infection prevention reports today, looking at Sligo General Hospital, Cork University Hospital, Wexford General Hospital and Letterkenny General Hospital.

At Sligo General Hospital, HIQA found much evidence of non-compliance with national standards.

It noted worn and damaged equipment and furniture, as well as chipped paintwork.

It said that in all three areas assessed, the physical environment and patient equipment were unclean.

It also said that that a culture of hand hygiene was not embedded at all levels.

At Letterkenny General Hospital, three clinical areas were unclean.

It noted that in the maternity ward, there was dust and dirt on the floors.

It found that baby baths were stored along the corridor and there was no system for cleaning the baby baths.

HIQA said there was no way of knowing whether or not the baths had been cleaned and this posed a risk to newborns of acquiring a Healthcare Associated Infection.

Hand hygiene was also highlighted with HIQA again noting that a culture of hand hygiene was not embedded at all levels in the hospital.

HIQA said that all the clinical areas assessed at Cork University Hospital, Cork Maternity Hospital and Mallow General Hospital, were clean.

However, there was little evidence to demonstrate a commitment to hand hygiene.

It found that despite concerns over low interest in hand hygiene training, there was no evidence of an effective executive response.

It also found that the hospital had failed to submit data to the HSE on hand hygiene compliance in 2011 and 2012. It has urged the hospital to address hand hygiene as a priority.

At Wexford General Hospital, HIQA said there was little evidence again of a commitment to hand hygiene.

Clinical areas were general clean it said but in the maternity ward HIQA noted that the corridor ceiling required urgent improvement.

Ceiling tiles were missing and HIQA said this should be addressed, to mitigate against the risk of patients and newborns contracting infections.

HIQA has made a number of recommendations to each hospital and inspectors will revisit them within six months.

The HSE said the HIQA reports show some improvement in hand hygiene rates but also highlight areas for further improvement.

It said that as part of the continued efforts to improve hand hygiene from July this year, it will be mandatory for all staff to receive hand hygiene training as part of staff induction.

The HSE is also planning a hand hygiene awareness week for staff in May.