No flowers, please: Why hospitals are banning bouquets

Concerns about safety, hygiene and allergies have led to a new policy in Irish wards

Hospital flowers iStock

The country’s three national children’s hospitals said visitors are 'discouraged from bringing fresh flowers and plants into high-risk clinical areas, especially intensive care, oncology, coronary care units, respiratory and orthopaedic wards' File photograph: iStock

 

Most of Ireland’s main hospitals are banning visitors from bringing in flowers, citing concerns over hygiene, allergies, water spillages, vase breakages, a lack of space and creating extra work for nurses.

All of the State’s major hospital groups have confirmed they have clamped down on fresh bouquets being allowed on wards.

However, the prohibition has led to warnings that the policy may be slowing the recovery of patients.

Mary Forrest, associate professor in horticulture at UCD, said research has shown that patients who have an “attractive view” of flowers or plants spend less time in hospital and need less strong painkillers.

“If people need to be in hospital for less time, then that’s going to be a huge benefit from a healthcare point of view, both for the individual and in terms of the cost,” she said.

The Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, which includes St James’s, Tallaght, the Coombe, Portlaoise, Tullamore and Naas hospitals, has stopped visitors from bringing their loved ones flowers “to ensure optimum hygiene”.

A spokeswoman also pointed to “safety reasons such as patient allergies, limited space, monitoring the change of water and breakage of vases”.

The Ireland East Hospital Group, incorporating Dublin’s National Maternity Hospital, the Mater, St Vincent’s, the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear as well as Mullingar, Wexford and Navan hospitals, said it has “no official flower or plant policy”.

“However, most hospital wards have a no flowers and plants policy because of recommendations from infection control,” a spokeswoman added. “Cut flowers in stagnant water and potted plants can pose a potential risk of infection to susceptible patients and are therefore not recommended on the wards.”

The South/Southwest Hospital Group, which includes Cork University Hospital, Waterford, Kerry and South Tipperary hospitals, said its ban was as result of the “risk of pseudomonas exposure for stagnant water in vases”.

High-risk areas

“The general approach in all of the hospitals is that fresh flowers are not permitted in high-risk areas such as our high-dependency units,” a spokeswoman said. “Flowers are also not permitted in areas where people with chest problems are treated as their condition may be made worse by pollen or other plant matter.”

UL Hospitals Group, which oversees University Hospital Limerick and Nenagh and Ennis hospitals, said it has “a no flowers policy” for hygiene and safety reasons.

“This is because of limited space, breakage of vases, monitoring the change of water and the risk of water spillage,” a spokeswoman said.

The country’s three national children’s hospitals said visitors are “discouraged from bringing fresh flowers and plants into high-risk clinical areas, especially intensive care, oncology, coronary care units, respiratory and orthopaedic wards”.

Beaumont Hospital, through a public relations company, refused to respond to questions.

None of the hospital groups cited any research or evidence for their policies.

‘Immediate joy’

Eileen Nolan, Bloom award-winning garden designer who is head gardener at Our Lady’s Hospice in Harold’s Cross, Dublin, said: “I think it is good for people to have something to look at it in a room, and sometimes it gives them a purpose, if they can get up and look after it themselves – it gives them a focus and something to do, as opposed to thinking about themselves and their illness.”

Fionnuala Fallon, a flower farmer and garden writer for The Irish Times, said shatter-proof and non-spill vases would get rid of any safety risks, while “a tiny bit of bleach in the water will essentially kill all bacteria for a long period of time”.

“There is nothing like a bunch of flowers for cheering people up,” she said.“The vast majority of people see a bunch of flowers as something that brings immediate joy and pleasure. It is sad to see it gone from hospitals.”