Coombe Hospital operating theatre “not fit for purpose”

HIQA inspection finds facilities do not comply with "international standards, HIQA standards, or basic best practice guidelines for surgical facilities”

The operating theatre at the Coombe Maternity Hospital in Dublin has been declared “not fit for purpose” by the government’s health watchdog.

An unannounced inspection from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has found the hospital’s Operating Theatre Department “did not comply with international standards, HIQA standards, or basic best practice guidelines for surgical facilities.”

The inspection found that the operating theatre was “outdated” and not designed to facilitate measures that prevent infection.

Two of the operating rooms were opened in 1967 with a further two added in 1995.

The HIQA inspection found a range of problems with the operating theatre facilities, many of which are as a result of outdated design.

According to the report, the “substantial amount of exposed pipe work and electrical wiring” on ceilings and along walls was found to hinder effective cleaning while “inadequate storage facilities” has led to a failure to store sterile supplies appropriately.

The operating theatre’s ventilation system also did not meet recommended specifications with unfiltered air from outside, “circulating in an operating room during surgery.”

HIQA criticised the open plan nature of the facility and the lack of physical separation - with doctors who have already “scrubbed up” having to walk through one theatre in order to reach another.

It found that facilities for staff were not sufficient to cater for the number of people working in the department.

There are plans to move the Coombe to a new site at St James’s Hospital in the longer-term and the watchdog acknowledged that a number of problems “cannot be addressed without major capital investment.”

However, the report said some of the other risks identified can be addressed in the mean-time.

A statement from the hospital confirmed it has accepted the conclusions of the HIQA inspectors and backed the finding that infrastructure risks can only be addressed with major investment.

The statement said patient safety is “central to the care provided at the Coombe” and confirmed that upgrade and extension proposals have been approved by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The hospital board are now waiting for the HSE to come forward with a timeline for when the funding will be released.