Hospital Infections: more than just dirty hands
On October 13 edition of White Coat, Black Art, microbiologist and superbug expert Dr. Allison McGeer took me on a tour of Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital to show me where germs that can harm patients lurk. Hospital-acquried infections are the fourth leading cause of death in Canada, a statistic that tracks with other western countries. If you didn't catch the show, click on the Podcast menu and right click on the show dated October 13, 2008. In my conversation with Dr. McGeer, she emphasized the role poor handwashig by health care workers plays in the spreading of these dangeous germs.
Turns out hands aren't the only unclean things being used in hospital.
Last week, health officials reported that nurses at the High Prairie Complex in High Prairie, Alberta, had been routinely injecting drugs into patients' intravenous lines with the same syringe. Alberta Health Services has said it will contact patients by phone and by registered mail to advise that they be tested for Hepatitis B and C and for HIV.
This week, it was reported that a hospital in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan has been reusing syringes to inject medication into intravenous lines. It's unknown how long the practice has been going on and how many patients may have been affected. The province's chief medical officer has said testing of patients on whom syringes were reused will be done if the risk to patients warrants it.
Health officials in both provinces have said the risk to patients is probably low, given the fact that the syringes were used to inject drugs into intravenous lines, and were not used to obtain blood samples from patients.
Still, this is distressing news. If health care workers can't be trusted with something as simple as washing their hands, how can they be trusted to take proper infection control precautions with more compex tasks like preparing intravenous solutions?
What do you think?
Categories: Past Episodes
Previous Comments (4)
I used to be an LPN and often my hands would be incredibly sore from constant washing. It is very difficult to keep washing your hands anywhere between 10-30 times without encountering problems. If we use gloves between patients we still have to wash our hands. So it is a hard thing to keep doing and it is hard to convince hospital departments to purchase handwash and paper towels that are gentler on the hands. It is my opinion that nurses with soft hands should be suspect.Margaret Osbourne, November 3, 2008 9:46 PM
Who made that decision for the nurses in High Prairie AB and Lloydmeinster Sask.? Why didn't the nurses think to question it? Is this a sign of their lack of time and a feeling of powerlessness?
If health care providers have red and cracked skin from over washing, is it a reservoir for bacteria? Is hand sanitizer any better than washing?
I work in a hospital in the SPD dept. I have had to receive medical treatment in the recent past and to my astonishment and horror have seen attending staff blow their nose, cough into their hands or go off to do something else and then come back to treat me without first washing their hands. I do not hesitate to ask that person to do so. It is every patients right. Not only are you protecting the patient but yourself and your family members as well. It is totally unacceptable to cut corners where a patients life is at risk. In SPD we follow strict manufacturers instructions when cleaning and processing items for hospital use and sign our name to everything.
The general public need more education on how pathegens are transmitted to the body. We are begining to see more ads on TV and articles in magazines. I too suffer from sore, cracked, dry hands from frequent handwashing and constantly reapply lotion that seems to give little relief. I keep a bottle in every room of my house and at night bandage fingers smeared in polysporin.
Regardless of how minimal exposure a patient has to something it should not be trivialized. I'm sure there must be one staff member who may have concerns when they see something that may have the potential to cause concern. Why are they not speaking up?
I'm catching up on past episodes on pod casting. As an RRT in a small maritime hospital it has long been my practice when entering a patient's room to talk to the patient, make my notes, then wash my hands and carry on to the hands on part of the assessment. That way the patient and others in the room see you actually wash up. Of course, in a code blue situation there isn't the time before hand but infection is the least of the patient's problems at that point... DDan Adams, November 21, 2008 3:25 PM