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A letter in the Yorkshire Post last week highlighted a potential cause of cross-contamination in healthcare facilities. It was written by someone who had observed a simple action by a healthcare worker who thought she was complying with procedures but through lack of awareness may well have created problems that could have had a devastating effect on her facility’s healthcare-acquired infection figures. I have no doubt that what the writer observed is something that’s repeated in facilities all over the world.
Professor J. A. Double, of West Yorkshire, wrote in response to a recent article in the Yorkshire Post by MP Andrea Jenkyns: 'A simple lesson in hygiene that will save lives.'
The professor said he felt that many hospital staff simply do not understand cross-infection, going on to say that "sadly, this has been totally compromised by the use of disposable gloves that in most instances have replaced hand washing."
He went on to describe a recent visit to hospital, during which he observed a nurse wash her hands before donning sterile gloves. She then prepared a sterile area before putting the patient’s notes on the prepared area.
"She then realised something was missing and without any thought of removing her gloves, rummaged through several drawers and cupboards to find what she was looking for and then placed it on the 'sterile' area," he said. "She then attended to the patient and removed a cannula in what she believed to be a 'sterile' procedure. The notes would not have been sterile; nor would anything she had touched while rummaging about.
"While it is right that staff should wear gloves where there is a clear risk to them, somehow the message has to be got across that disposable gloves are a real source of cross infection if worn to handle the notes of patients and touch any unsterile surfaces prior to carrying out what they believe to be a clean procedure."
The professor has a point. I, too, observe people who are cleaning and I observe healthcare professionals who are supposed to be complying with cross-contamination prevention procedures. I have often wondered whether following procedures has become so mechanical that people have forgotten to actually think about what they’re doing. And of course that’s when procedures can create the very problems they’re designed to prevent…
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10th December 2015