Press Release

Minister for Health pledges Ireland’s support for WHO SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands

Dr. James Reilly, Minister for Health today (Thursday 5th May 2011) reaffirmed his support for the WHO Hand Hygiene Day.

Hand hygiene in healthcare is everyone’s concern and everyone has a responsibility to take appropriate action. The global annual campaign SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands initiative aims to galvanise hand hygiene at the point of patient care. As part of the day’s actions, healthcare facilities world wide will demonstrate their continued commitment by signing up to the global movement and undertaking and sharing locally driven activities on hand hygiene improvements at the point of care.

The Minister pledged Ireland’s support to implement actions to reduce hospital acquired infection and to share results and learning internationally. The Minister commented: “Poor hygiene standards puts lives in danger. We all need to play our part to dramatically improve hygiene standards in hospitals. Improvement requires buy in from everybody – hospital staff in all areas and visitors. Our goal is clean hands, clean practices, clean products, clean environment and clean equipment. This is an attainable goal and will be a priority for the health services.”

The aim of this year’s WHO Hand Hygiene Day is to build on the successful WHO Clean Care is Safer Care campaign and to continue to inform the general public about when and how to clean their hands. The focus on 2011 is for healthcare facilities to “check your status”i.e., Do you know where your facility stands on hand hygiene improvement and sustainability? The latest WHO Saves Lives; Clean Your Hands healthcare and facility registration total now stands at 12,902. 43 acute and non-acute Irish healthcare facilities have signed up to the initiative.

The Minister noted that while there has been a welcome decrease of 40% in the number of MRSA cases reported between 2006 and 2009 we cannot become complacent. The recent CRE outbreak in the Midwest demonstrates the need for ongoing vigilance and attention to the threat posed by Antimicrobial Resistance and Health Care Associated Infections.

Health care-associated infection is a major issue in patient safety as it affects millions of people worldwide and complicates the delivery of patient care. Infections contribute to patient deaths and disability, promote resistance to antibiotics and generate additional expenditure to those already incurred by the patients’ underlying disease.

To fight the spread of health care-associated infections which take a high toll in human lives and affect hundreds of millions of patients worldwide each year, WHO and its partners launched the Global Patient Safety Challenge with the theme “Clean Care is Safer Care” on Thursday 13th October 2005. As part of the launch the WHO Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care (Advanced Draft) were made available.

The aim of the launch was to strengthen the commitment of interested Member States to the Global Patient Safety Challenge and the critical role of hand hygiene in controlling the spread of health care-associated infection and multiresistant pathogens.

The implementation of the Global Patient Safety Challenge comprises three major strategies:

  • global and national “Clean Care is Safer Care” campaigns,
  • country statements pledging to address health care-associated infection,
  • testing implementation in districts.