Portlaoise Hospitals Marks World Hand Hygiene SAVE LIVES: Clean your Hands Day

Leinster Express Reporter


Leinster Express Reporter



Staff of the Infection Prevention and Control and the Nurse Practice Development Departments at the Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise hosted an information day for staff ahead of World Health Organization’s Hand Hygiene Day on Saturday the 5th of May.

The campaign aims to highlight the importance of hand hygiene in health care, by ‘bringing people together’ in support of hand hygiene improvement globally.

The information day involved hand hygiene awareness and information sessions demonstrating correct hand hygiene technique with the use of a UV cabinet demonstrating correct technique. Information resources were available for staff with discussion involving the critical moments for hand hygiene within clinical care. 

Visual displays were also used showing the 5 moments for Hand Hygiene.  In addition a lunchtime session was very well attended using Youtube videos to highlight the importance of effective hand hygiene.  This was supplemented by awareness and staff presence in the hospital foyer, raising the awareness of the importance of hand hygiene to patients and members of the public.  This Hand Hygiene Day WHO calls on health facilities to prevent health care-associated sepsis through hand hygiene and infection prevention and control (IPC) action. Sepsis is estimated to affect more than 30 million patients every year worldwide.

On World Hand Hygiene Day people are urged need to remember that to protect health everyone needs to wash their hands thoroughly. Healthcare workers are trained to follow good hand hygiene practice but it is important for everyone to realise how vital proper hand washing is. 

Good hand hygiene involves following simple steps every time we wash our hands to ensure that all parts of the hands are clean.  Have a look at the video on proper handwashing.

Effective hand hygiene prevents infection. In preventing infection we prevent the evolution of infection to sepsis.

Karn Cliffe is Assistant Director of Nursing & Midwifery - Sepsis, Dublin Midlands Hospital Group.

“Sepsis is a life-threatening condition triggered by infection that affects the function of the organs. It is treated most effectively if recognised early. It can affect a person of any age, from any social background and can strike irrespective of underlying good health or concurrent medical conditions. In 2016, there were 14,804 cases of sepsis documented in Ireland and 1 in 5 of these patients died," she said.

Claire Dowling and Sarah are Roche Infection Prevention and Control Nurses.

“Poor hand hygiene leads to germ transmission including  those germs resistant to antibiotics. This can put patients at risk of potentially fatal health care associated infections (HAI). We as healthcare professionals understand and are committed to improving the standards of hand hygiene as part of the overall approach to reducing healthcare associated infection. We are encouraging our colleagues today to remember the importance of the 5 moments in hand hygiene and how poor practice can dramatically impact on our patients,” they said.

 Dr Sean Fleming is Clinical Lead for Sepsis at the Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise.

“The World Health Organisation reports that approximately 70% of healthcare workers and 50% of surgical teams do not routinely practice hand hygiene. Studies have shown that practising routine hand hygiene achieves a reduction in health care, associated infections (HAIs). 

"Health care associated infections, infections acquired during health care delivery, are common and are a risk factor for developing sepsis but we can prevent this," he said.

Fiona Moore Practice Development Nurse added that effective hand hygiene plays a key role. We are delighted to host this important information and education event in the Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise today.

"We often think we have washed our hands properly but have a look at this short experiment and you will be surprised,” she said. 

 Some tips for stopping infections spreading at home are listed below - you should try to make a habit of washing your hands regularly during the day.  The goal is to find a good balance between keeping your hands clean when it’s most important without limiting your enjoyment of life.  Particularly important times to wash your hand are:

·         For healthcare workers; the 5 moments for hand hygiene

·         When you have been in contact with a person or an animal with an infection

·         When you get back to your home from being out and about or at work, especially if your work involves a lot of contact with people or animals

·         Before starting to prepare or handle food

·         After touching raw meat including poultry

·         Before eating food

·         After using the toilet and after changing nappies


All you need to reduce the spread of infection is warm running water, plain liquid soap and a clean towel at home/paper towels outside of the home.  Avoid fancy soaps, and cloth towels, as they usually have bugs on them, and avoid using “antibacterial” soaps as they don’t offer any benefit and may actually increase the risk of resistant germs.  

It’s important to change towels regularly at home.  Alcohol gel can be used instead of washing your hands with soap and water but it is not effective against some bugs which can cause diarrhoea and vomiting so in that situation soap and water are better. In hospital it is different, because of the nature of the work, there are many more infection causing bugs in the hospital environment so in hospital alcohol gels and other disinfectants may have to be used.


See hse.ie/handhygiene for more information about WHO World Hand Hygiene Day 2018and helpful videos and information about good hand hygiene.

More information is available at: www.hse.ie/sepsis.

http://www.who.int/infection- prevention/campaigns/clean- hands/5may2018/en/

Previous international studies have shown faecal contamination on a wide variety of surfaces including:

·         bank notes

·         hands

·         kitchen taps

·         cleaning cloths

·         bar snacks

·         shopping bag

·         computer keyboards

·         mobile phones

·         wrist bands

·         ice cubes

·         preparation surfaces in mobile kitchens



Watch out there’s a bug about

Tiny creatures called bacteria and fungi have been around for billions of years, much longer than humans.  Bacteria and fungi are our world’s natural systems for recycling almost everything and the world would die without them.  Human health also depends on the balance between good bacteria and our body – we have about 10 times as many bacterial cells in and on our body as we have human cells.  And on top of all that bacteria and fungi are key to making your glass of wine or beer or your favourite cheese.  So most bacteria and good for us and for our world most of the time and the best thing to do is leave them alone. But there is a darker side to bacteria. Other bacteria reproduce inside the body and cause different infections - sore throats, ear infections, cavities, and pneumonia, among others.  Other bacteria are used in labs to make things like medicine and vaccines.


Bacteria are alive! They are among the simplest form of life known, being made up of only one cell. They occur everywhere – in our bread, yoghurt, beer and wine – fermentation starts with bacteria
Humans depend on  good bacteria
It would take millions of gut bugs to cover the dot on this letter i.  Hands that look clean can carry millions of bugs and can easily spread from touch.   Washing our hands properly  can reduce the spread of bacteria (https://bit.ly/2q42aBF )


Some interesting facts about bacteria

In 2012, scientists found 1,458 new species of bacteria living just in the bellybutton of human beings. Everyone’s bellybutton ecology is unique like a fingerprint, and one volunteer’s belly button harboured bacteria that had previously been found only in soil from Japan, where he had never been.
Alexander Fleming warned even as early as 1920s about the possibility of antibiotic resistant bacteria due to antibiotics misuse.
Honey is a natural reservoir for the Botulism bacteria. Adults can normally process it and infants can’t and this is why you shouldn’t give babies honey. 
A tea towel has 20,000 times more bacteria than a toilet seat, surpassed only by a sponge (an impressive 200,000 times!).  So let the dishes air-dry and ignore the calls to dry the dishes!
At about 5 million trillion trillion strong, bacteria and their cousins, microorganisms, vastly outnumber all other life-forms on earth.
Lined up end to end, they would stretch some 10 billion light-years—literally from here to the edge of the visible universe.
There are always more on the way. Pseudomonas natriegens, an ocean-dwelling bacterium, can go from birth to reproduction in 10 minutes flat.  In five hours a single cell could theoretically give rise to more than 1 billion offspring.

What can you do to protect yourself?

Have a read of our top tips and hand hygiene to protect yourself and your family:


-   When you wake up in the morning don’t rub your eyes…

According to a study by the Washington University School of Medicine, in a sample of bed sheets examined 18% were found to be contaminated by strains of Staphylococcus aureus.  This is a bacterium that can cause a number of diseases.  It means there is a significant risk that our hands will have a high amount of bacteria on them when we wake up in the morning. So the best thing to do is avoid rubbing your eyes and go straight to the bathroom to wash your face.


-On the way to the office….

Public transport is where we all mingle a little bit too closely sometimes on busy buses, trains, the Dart or Luas.  Germs have the opportunity to be spread.   The handrails, seats and touchscreen where we purchase tickets have thousands of billions of microbes.  But Harvard research indicates they are not actually dangerous for humans.  Holding on to handrails is about the same as shaking someone’s hand.  But when you reach the office, make sure to wash your hands before starting work or grabbing some breakfast.


-   Working in the office? Be wary of the technology…

Computers, phones and mobiles are a constant in our office environment, we can’t work without them. But how clean are they?   Research has shown that PCs, keyboards, phones are full of bacteria – a mouse has an average of 260 bacteria per centimetre squared, a keyboard has 511 and the mouthpiece of a telephone has an impressive 3,895!  Make sure you clean your tech equipment. They are actually worse than a toilet seat which has 8 bacteria per cm2!


-   The toilet is fine - but watch out for the handles, taps and air hand dryers…

The real danger is not the toilet but the handles and taps.   Don’t touch the toilet seat with your hands if it’s visibly dirty.  Our skin acts as a protective barrier when we use the toilet - it is the largest organ in the human body.  Drying your hands with paper towel will reduce the bacterial count by 45 – 60% on your hands. However, using a hand dryer will increase the bacteria on your hands by up to 255% because it blows out bacteria already living in the, conveniently, warm moist environment.  


Get more information

There are lots of tips on hand hygiene on www.hse.ie/hcai and you can learn all about bacteria on www.ebug.eu  a teaching/ learning resource for schools and colleges (and parents!).  On ebug you can find out about bugs through quizzes, games and home science experiments.  Try them out – you’ll be surprised.