Health workers must pay attention to hygiene

2008-06-30 00:00

A nurse wakes at 5.30 am, bathes, dresses for duty, kisses his or her loved ones goodbye and heads for the hospital. His or her day starts with greeting patients, touching and inspecting where necessary and filling in their charts.

The physiotherapist comes in and writes on the charts after seeing many patients. The doctor then enters and he or she writes on the charts and so the day goes.

How many people touched the patients’ files? Most importantly, how many washed their hands?

The organisms found on the hands of health-care workers cause a number of infections in any health-care facility.

One percent of these infections are directly responsible for the death of patients and three percent contribute to the death of patients. They can also prolong your hospital stay and increase your bills.

A growing concern worldwide is the rise of “superbugs” in hospitals.

Wikipedia declares that in the United States reports reflect a nationwide epidemic of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a bacterium responsible for difficult-to-treat infections in humans in the U.S. — one that has significantly increased over the past seven years. South African hospitals have not escaped this trend.

The control of infections found in hospitals requires a multidisciplinary approach.

Health-care workers need to be involved in the very basic components of their industry such as the design of health-care institutions.

Having expensive aesthetically pleasing facilities is not the answer to the prevention of Nosocomial infections.

Health-care nursing units should ideally have hand- washing basins at the entrance and exit doors of each and every unit.

In addition wash basins should have foot operated taps. The basins should be wide enough to prevent spillage of water onto the floor or carpet.

While we are in this ideal health-care world, every nurse should shower on arrival at work, change into scrubs and tend to the patients.

On their way home at the end of each shift, every nurse should shower and change into his or her own clothes so as to protect his or her own loved ones from any bugs left on their hands.

Clinical equipment must be disinfected after each use and, items such as pens and clipboards and files must be disinfected at the end of each shift.

The practice of having dangling items to carry pens, scissors or thermometers is questionable in this age of multi-drug resistant viruses and bacteria, as is the current fad of wearing acrylic fingernails.

The basic practice of hand-washing is vital to every health-care worker and this principle must be applied conscientiously even if the health care worker has worn gloves. Gloves are not a substitute for hand- washing. Hand-washing must be done before entering a health-care unit and before and after patient contact.

South African should follow First World countries and embark on a “clean your hands” campaign.

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