Nova Scotia

Clean hands best way to keep patients safe

With Canadian Patient Safety Week wrapping up, officials on P.E.I. say one of the best ways to keep patients safe is for people to keep their hands clean.

Campaign aims to remind health workers to wash hands

With Canadian Patient Safety Week wrapping up, officials on P.E.I. say one of the best ways to keep patients safe is for people to keep their hands clean.

Last summer, auditors went to every health care facility on the Island and watched how many staff actually cleaned their hands.

Province-wide, the average was 55 per cent. 

"We definitely want to be higher than that," said Stacey Burns, Infection Control Coordinator at P.E.I.'s Department of Health and Wellness, "So we keep moving forward, we keep our efforts, and we'll keeping hammering away at it."

Burns said P.E.I. did better than the national average of about 40 per cent. She said stopping the spread of germs is critical to patient health.   

Each year in Canada about 8,000 patients die from hospital-acquired infections.

"For every percentage increase in hand hygiene, we have a two-fold decrease in potential infections," said Burns.  

There is a proper way to clean your hands and health care workers need to repeat the steps dozens of times a day.

"When we're running from patient to patient or you're touching something in the environment, but you haven't actually touched the person, sometimes you forget that that's important," said Burns.

"Time restraints and the busyness of your work day are the big things that inhibit that," said Queen Elizabeth Hospital Infection Prevention Nurse Debbie Steele.

At the QEH, there's a hand cleaning campaign featuring posters of staff cleaning their hands in various areas to set an example.

There's also a new brochure encouraging patients and their visitors to do the same.  

Steele said she hopes the posters aren't just ignored.

"I suppose there's always that risk, but at the same time you can't ignore the fact that people need reminders."

Dr. Ed Harrison says he's glad there are so many places in the hospital to clean up.

"It's necessary and put the two together, the accessibility and the need, it's easy enough," he said. "It just gets to be a habit after a while."

The next time P.E.I. health workers are checked up on for how often they clean their hands, health officials hope the score is closer to 100 per cent.