Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Healthcare staff who do not wash their hands

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Forty per cent of doctors, nurses and other personnel did not wash their hands before touching patients at the intensive care unit (ICU) of a hospital here, according to a study done early this year.
The study at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Hospital (HUKM) was done by the hospital’s infection control doctor and consultant microbiologist Professor Dr Nordiah Awang Jalil.
Dr Nordiah said this at the Third International Congress of the Asia-Pacific Society of Infection Control yesterday.
The theme of the three-day congress is "Infection control in a global village".
One of the key areas being discussed is healthcare-associated infection (HCAI).
Nordiah’s study was done to check on incidents relating to HCAI, a phenomenon that affects hundreds of millions of hospital patients worldwide.
After the initial finding of her study, Nordiah said she undertook several measures, starting with talks on the importance of hand hygiene among healthcare professionals.
Although the response was positive, a follow-up check at the ICU a month later showed that only 62 per cent of the staff complied with the regulation.
Not wanting to give up, Dr Nordiah went on a campaign to educate staff on the importance of hand hygiene.
Her third step involved installing voice-recorded messages at the entrance of the ICU urging doctors, nurses and visitors to wash their hands.
"Some were in fear of being watched when the recorded voice came on, so they headed for the sink," she said.
A subsequent audit two months later revealed an 80 per cent compliance rate.
"People wash their hands after handling or visiting a patient because they are conscious about their own health. They are self-centred, not patient-centred," Dr Nordiah said.
But the lack of hand hygiene is not exclusively a Malaysian problem.
In his paper, Professor Didier Pittet, who leads the World Health Organisation’s World Alliance for Patient Safety campaign, said HCAI involved seven to 12 per cent of hospitalised patients and could lead to complications in 20 to 45 per cent of the critical cases.
Dr Nordiah said studies showed that practising good hand hygiene cost less than one per cent of the cost of managing the infection.
To make things easier, alcohol-based handrub, in place of soap and water, was being widely promoted, she said.
Deputy Health Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Noorimi Morad said the ministry had embarked on a hand hygiene campaign last year after it became a signatory of the World Alliance for Patient Safety.
"A team of infection control personnel visited state hospitals to brief staff on the importance of hand hygiene.
"The critical units we focused on were the accident and emergency department, the ICU and the haemodialysis centre," she said.

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