Hospital hygiene in firing line

A NEW survey has highlighted worrying hygiene deficiencies in hospitals throughout the country.

An analysis of 21 hospitals, carried out by Deco, Portugal’s consumer protection association, revealed glaring failings in the preparation of meals and food preservation. The findings cause particular concern because; although potentially dangerous levels of pathogenic germs were not found, it was in patients’ wards that the survey uncovered most irregularities.

The report said urgent improvements had to be made in the area of food hygiene and concluded that employees needed to improve personal sanitation standards. Some surface areas were also found to contain certain microorganisms indicative of poor hygiene. The report also highlights inadequate hospital installations and surfaces – dirty doors, windows, bathrooms and exhaust systems, as well as faulty ventilation and excessive water on floors.

The report expressed concerns about the preparation of all food in hospitals, including soup, meat and fish. But the most worrying area was the preparation of salads, where the report urged more thorough cleaning procedures. The survey also concluded that too many chips were being served at meal times.

More rigorous

inspections needed

In order to combat deficiencies and omissions, Deco warns that the Director General of Health and the Health Ministry, as well as hospitals themselves, will have to enforce stricter supervision over the preparation of meals. The organisation calls for more effective monitoring of canteens, equipment, utensils, sanitary installations and changing rooms. It also recommends that hospitals urgently review temperatures at which food is preserved, the methods used to prepare meals and basic hygiene regulations. The survey concluded that many failings resulted from ignorance on the part of staff. Hospitals are also encouraged to keep samples of meals given to patients because it is a way of easily identifying the cause of food poisoning.

Some hospital boards have already demonstrated an intention to make improvements. The Hospital Infante D. Pedro, in Aveiro, the Hospital da Ordem da Lapa, in Porto, and the Centro Hospitalar de Coimbra have said they intend to carry out changes.