Irish Medical Organisation

Hand Hygiene Contributes Significantly to Keeping Our Patients Safe- IMO President

9th May 2012

The Irish Medical Organisation today welcomed the initiatives undertaken by the Royal College of Physicians Ireland (RCPI)/HSE clinical programme on prevention of healthcare-associated infection (HCAI). 
May 5th has been designated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as Hand Hygiene Day.
Dr Paul McKeown President IMO today welcomed the initiatives undertaken by the RCPI/HSE clinical programme on prevention of healthcare-associated infection (HCAI).  
“Hand Hygiene Day reminds us that all healthcare workers, particularly doctors, have a role in preventing infections in healthcare settings”, said Dr McKeown,” and that hand hygiene contributes significantly to keeping our patients safe, by preventing the spread of multiple antibiotic resistant bacteria and C. difficile infection between patients.”  
“The Health Service Executive (HSE) has made improving hand hygiene compliance by healthcare workers a priority;” he said. “The IMO strongly supports the HSE in its hand hygiene campaign.”  
“Hand hygiene contributes significantly to keeping patients safe, said Dr McKeown. “ It is a simple, low-cost intervention that effectively prevents the spread of Health Care Associated Infections (HCAI) and is one of the most important actions any doctor can take in protecting the health or his/her patients.  In addition, proper hand hygiene protects doctors from infection in the clinical environment”. 
Hospitalised patients are often vulnerable to acquiring infection in hospital; infection is most commonly spread by hands.  Effective hand hygiene has been shown to be highly effective at reducing gastrointestinal infections, respiratory viral infections and infections associated with pregnancy and the puerperium. 
“Doctors have a crucial role to ensure that hand hygiene become second nature for everyone, and we can lead by good example”, he said.  “There is however room for improvement; the latest hand hygiene audit undertaken by the HSE in October 2011 showed that the overall hand hygiene compliance of doctors was 68% for doctors – in other words, almost one third of doctors need to improve their hand hygiene practices”.  For all healthcare workers the overall level of compliance was 79.6%.  This means that almost 20% of healthcare workers are not undertaking hand hygiene when they should.  “But there is good news;” he went on to say, “This figure has increased from 74.7% in June 2011.  We are keen to see those figures improve with every passing month”.
Bloodstream infections are at the more severe end of the spectrum of HCAI and can result in significant patient morbidity and mortality.  Dr McKeown noted that this leads to patients having extended lengths-of-stay in hospital; such patients tend to have a more complicated infection which results in greater patient and family distress and increased healthcare costs.  "While the reduction in MRSA bloodstream infection in Ireland is very welcome, we can have no room for complacency – our patients still acquire HCAI in our hospitals and we need to ensure that we prevent as much as possible."
“Hand hygiene is the cornerstone to preventing these infections,” said Dr McKeown, “We medical practitioners have always operated from the principle of ‘Primum non nocere” – First do no harm.  We should aim to ensure that our hand hygiene practices are such that we are never responsible for transmitting infection between out patients”.  
The World Health Organization’s Five Moments for Hand Hygiene ( are an easy way to remember when hand hygiene is required in the clinical setting:
1. Before touching a patient
2. Before clean/aseptic procedure
3. Before body fluid exposure risk
4. After touching a patient
5. After touching patient surroundings
Further information on all aspects of hand hygiene see:
For further information contact:
Maria Murphy
Director of Communications
& Public Affairs
Irish Medical Organisation

IMO Membership

Start reaping the benefits of membership.

If you were previously a member of the IMO you can rejoin here.

Join nowRejoin here ›


Have a question?
Please get in touch with us and we will be happy to answer.