A patient rights advocate is calling on University Hospital Galway not to take any “shortcuts” in dealing with an outbreak of fleas at the facility.
Mary Tierney of Patient Focus says a multi-disciplinary approach must be taken to eradicate the problem at the regional hospital’s outpatient department.
The HSE West confirmed this week that a number of staff had been bitten but said there was no evidence that patients had been affected.
However, Ms Tierney said anything that could have a negative effect on patients is of concern to her organisation.
“Naturally, if one attends a hospital with a serious condition and comes away with something one didn’t plan for, that would be of major concern. We have always been worried about hospital acquired infections but to think of the possibility of coming away with a foreign body...I shudder to think of it. People have a horror of creepy crawlies. When one is attending outpatients this sometimes means stripping off and you leaving your clothes down somewhere.”
She said she hoped the relevent authorities are dealing with the issue. “While we cannot apportion blame what is important is how this problem is being dealt with. I hope pest control and the environmental health department is involved. As an advocate for patients who need UHG and hospitals generally it is important that the authorities will do everything [to eradicate this problem]. No short cuts must be taken.
“Everyone has had to endure health cuts and hard times and no-one has a right to scare people further. I hope this incident will not affect people’s confidence in the hospital.”
She expressed concern over any health risks to patients who are already vulnerable. “I would be concerned over further risks of cross infection. People are already vulnerable. The last thing they need is a bite getting infected.
“Regarding the fact that staff have been bitten by fleas, who is to say that patients will not be affected? I’d imagine fleas have no boundaries.”
In a statement the HSE West confirmed that a number of staff working in UHG’s outpatient department have been bitten by fleas recently.
“The hospital has undertaken a series of actions to deal with the problem and we have communicated with staff in the department who have been affected. There is no sign that this is affecting patients. The hospital is sorry for the discomfort to staff and for any worry this has caused to staff and may cause patients and is grateful for the patience and support of all concerned while we deal with this.
“We are following appropriate measures to address this matter. Our aim is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our patients and staff at all times. The hospital are taking all appropriate measures and will continue to do so until the matter is fully addressed. We have also liaised with the HSE environmental health and public health departments in relation to this matter.”