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HOSPITALS & HEALTHCARE


SMALL CHANGES, BIG IMPROVEMENTS


Could a few simple alterations to day-to-day cleaning and hygiene operations in the healthcare sector make all the difference for hospital safety, asks Essity’s Liam Mynes?


Everyone has become aware of how easy it is for microorganisms to spread in a healthcare setting.


Germs and viruses can quickly be picked up either from the air inside the hospital or from contaminated surfaces. In fact, between 20% and 40% of all HAIs are estimated to result from contamination on the hands of clinical staff.


But it is not only the medical staff who come into regular contact with the surfaces around a hospital bed. Others include the cleaners, catering personnel, visitors, hospital porters and the patients themselves. Any or all of these people will potentially be repeatedly touching the bed frames, call buttons, cups, glasses and personal items belonging to the patient when they are inside the facility.


Healthcare-acquired infections are a perennial problem in hospitals. But the advent of COVID-19 has made it even more crucial that hygiene and cleaning protocols are scrutinised and that all procedures are updated to ensure an enhanced level of safety.


It is, of course, extremely difficult to keep track of the day-to- day interactions in a hospital ward and to ascertain which are the most dangerous. So a Swedish hospital recently agreed to participate in a trial to help clarify the picture.


Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm typically achieves infection control compliance rates of around


28 | TOMORROW’S FM


65%. The hospital tested 15 sites in each of five wards for the purposes of the trial – and quickly identified a number of common risk factors in all of them.


While healthcare staff were generally practising good hand hygiene and wearing PPE where appropriate, it was noted that members of the cleaning team rarely used hand sanitiser or changed their gloves between tasks.


Hospital porters have the vital job of transporting patients to and from operating theatres and wards. But the porters at Karolinska University Hospital appeared to have received inadequate training on basic hygiene and disinfection measures.


It was also noted that patients and family members were not routinely reminded about the importance of good hand hygiene.


Thorough surface cleaning is essential for removing any potential contamination from the areas around the patient’s bed. But cleaners in the study were often unsure as to which cleaning tasks were their responsibility and which were the remit of healthcare workers. This led to some tasks falling through the cracks and certain areas not being cleaned by anyone.


Researchers also observed that flat surfaces such as bedside tables in the patient areas tended to be littered


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