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Inadequate cleaning causes unnecessary deaths in hospitals and care facilities
by Steve Champion of Gloveman
In this Soapbox article Steve Champion illustrates how a lackadaisical attitude can spread infections in hospitals.
Infection control by cleaning effectively should be at the forefront of every healthcare facility, but with viruses like MRSA and C. difficile causing unnecessary deaths throughout the world it is time that the failure in sanitising and disinfecting needs to be addressed.
Is it case of 'out of sight, out of mind'?, or is it ignorance that can lead to epidemics and contraction?
Neither of these should be an excuse... perhaps modern day living has led to laziness which has caused these deaths to occur.
Take a look at MRSA initially. MRSA is, by definition, any strain of Staphylococcus aureus that has developed resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics. These include the range of penicillins (methicillin, dicloxacillin, nafcillin, oxacillin, etc.) and the cephalosporins. The more vulnerable of our society, like the elderly and disabled, are more at risk with open wounds and the immune systems are lowered through treatment and care. Although it's not just sores and wounds that MRSA can infect easily. You may be surprised to know that it can just as easily infect through the nostrils and the urinary tract.
Hand hygiene should be your first priority. Washing hands thoroughly with hand sanitising cleanser is essential to help eliminate the virus. Whilst in a hospital toilet I once saw a hospital porter exit a cubicle after using it and leave without washing his hands. Not is it just disgusting, but it's also highly dangerous! Potentially, that one inconsiderate act could cause contamination of hospital devices, patients and the general public.
Have you ever tried opening a heavy door without touching the handle? I did and I sought a hand sanitiser as quickly as I could.
Examine the above incident. Firstly, that outrageous hospital porter was just one man. The average staff in a hospital could be around the 400 mark. Let's say 8% of those staff act as inappropriately as the porter did. That's 32 people. Secondly, out of those 32 people virtually all of them would touch a door, bed, pen, trolley, light switch, patient, visitor, medical equipment; the list is endless. Finally, think of outpatients, visitors, catering staff and paramedics who come into contact with those items too. Any bacteria left will be picked up and passed on several fold. This is the case with all bacteria, MRSA especially.
But it doesn't end there. In healthcare environments, MRSA can survive on surfaces and fabrics, including privacy curtains or garments worn by care providers. Complete surface sanitation is necessary to eliminate MRSA in areas where patients are recovering from invasive procedures. Testing patients for MRSA upon admission, isolating MRSA-positive patients, decolonisation of MRSA-positive patients, and terminal cleaning of patients' rooms and all other clinical areas they occupy is the current best practice protocol for nosocomial MRSA. Furthermore, immediate disposal of aprons, gloves and other contact material is uppermost.
According to the Office of National Statistics in the UK in 2009, 781 people died from MRSA; and remember, MRSA is just one deadly bacteria strain. These deaths could easily have been avoided.
So what should be the rule of thumb? Clean it once and then clean it again.
9th June 2011