Concerns have been raised about the health risks involved in eucharistic ministers placing communion hosts in the mouths of patients at Letterkenny General Hospital.
One relative of a patient has raised the issue after claiming they witnessed a Eucharistic minister place communion hosts in the mouths of patients in a ward without washing his hands in between.
The HSE has said all the chaplains in Letterkenny General Hospital have received training on good hand hygiene practices. The concerns were raised by Martin Rijkers of Buncrana who saw a Eucharistic minister placing communion hosts in the mouths of patients in a ward while visiting a relative in the hospital.
He claimed the risk of carrying over bacteria or infections from patient to patient is enormous, even if the Eucharistic Minister had disinfected his hands.
“This is a real threat for health, especially when he puts the host in the patient’s mouth. Most patients in the hospital have, due to their illness, a very weak immune system,” he said.
He said he explained his concerns to a nurse on the ward at the time.
“He told me that I had a fair point,” he said. “Putting hosts in other patients mouths is a real health hazard and will spread around serious disease,” Mr. Rijkers said. “No host should be handed out in this manner,” he added.
In a statement issued to the Donegal Democrat/Donegal People’s Press, the HSE said all the chaplains in Letterkenny General Hospital have received training on good hand hygiene practices and are aware of cross infection issues.
“They are aware of the correct measures to take. There is no contact with patients as such; the contact is primarily between the chaplain and the host.”
The HSE said all patients who are immumo suppressed or who are in isolation do not receive the host and only patients who request the host actually receive it.
“The chaplains provide a very valuable service in attending to the spiritual needs of the patients, which is part of the holistic care that patients receive when they are in hospital,” the HSE said.