No one expects to enter a hospital setting and acquire a serious infection, but in Australia, the transmission of healthcare-associated infections leads to approximately 180,000 cases amongst patients every year. These infections prolong stays in both public and private health service hospitals around the country.
Keeping hospitals and other health service establishments free of infections and disease transmission has been a problem for centuries. Effective control measures can be difficult to implement, though with the right precautions taken and procedures prepared, it is possible to greatly reduce the transmission of preventable infections in hospitals.
Why is Infection Control an Issue in Healthcare Settings?
Infections are more likely to occur and spread in healthcare settings because there are a large number of people gathered (whether patients, staff or loved ones). These people could be carrying all kinds of germs and may not all be practicing good hand hygiene, which could lead to the transmission of any number of infections. In other settings, there are fewer pathogens in a larger area, so the risk is greatly reduced. Many of the people in healthcare and long-term residential settings are immunocompromised and/or aged, so their body has less chance of fighting off a virus or disease than a healthier, younger person.
COVID-19 has shown how important infection control is in healthcare settings. Being highly contagious, COVID-19 can be difficult to bring under control when an outbreak occurs, but it's not just this virus that is a problem - there are plenty of other infectious diseases that have been around for much longer that can be just as hard to control and just as deadly to patients.
Common Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs)
Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are a common but preventable risk to patient safety. A HAI is generally categorised as having been picked up in a hospital if it appears 48 hours after hospitalisation, and up to 30 hours after receiving healthcare. Some of the more common HAIs worldwide include:
Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infection (CLABSI)
Central line-associated bloodstream infections occur when germs (such as bacteria) enter the bloodstream through the central line (a long tube placed in a large vein that empties out near the heart).
Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA)
This is a type of bacteria that is resistant to many antibiotics. MRSA can cause life-threatening bloodstream infections, pneumonia and surgical site infections. Golden staph is a well-known MRSA.
Clostridium difficile is bacteria that causes symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon.
Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections affect the kidneys, ureters, bladder or urethra and can be caused by a catheter.
Pneumonia is the inflammation of the lung’s air sacs. Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria, virus or fungi.
Norovirus is a contagious virus that can be caught by having direct contact with an infected person and consuming contaminated food or water. The symptoms associated with norovirus include vomiting and diarrhea.
What is the Most Common Type of Infection Associated with Health Facilities?
Bloodstream infections, urinary tract infections, wound infections and pneumonia are some of the most common types of infections that are picked up in healthcare facilities and hospitals.
4 Standard Precautions for Infection Control
The Australian Commission On Safety and Quality in Health Care lists the following precautions as being basic infection prevention and control strategies that apply to everyone:
Hand hygiene (and cough etiquette).
The use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The safe use and disposal of sharps.
Routine environmental cleaning (including applying safe practices and relying on procedure when handling blood, body fluids and secretions, as well as excretions).
Why Routine Environmental Cleaning is Crucial
Sanitising and disinfecting healthcare settings is imperative to any procedure when it comes to infection prevention and protecting vulnerable patients. Years of research and case studies have allowed facilities to improve their cleaning practices to aid infection prevention.
Effective disinfecting agents are needed to kill the germs that cause HAIs and therefore assist with infection prevention. Products must be easy and efficient to use. Chlor-Clean disinfectant delivers 1000ppm of available chlorine per tablet and is listed as a hospital grade disinfectant. It’s an approved 2-in-1 clean and disinfection product, which eliminates the need of the two-step process of cleaning before disinfecting. This makes Chlor-Clean ideal for clinical application and a worthy addition to any infection control procedure in not only hospitals, but aged care facilities and a range of other health environments too.
In recent years, drains and sinks were proved to be transmission paths for healthcare-acquired infections. Drains in healthcare facilities can harbour biofilm containing infectious diseases. Drains are difficult to disinfect because flushing chemicals down isn’t enough to kill pathogens, meaning they can later re-enter an area and potentially infect. A physical barrier, such as a clinical Green Drain, is a proven way to ensure sinks and drains don't become routes of transmission within a given area. A clinical sink and floor drain trap seal can assist with infection prevention through flushing out without any disease, odour or insect return.
Frequently Asked Questions About Hospital Infection Control
Healthcare infections don’t just occur in hospitals and aged care facilities - they can occur in standard general practice clinics, dental care clinics, community health facilities, paramedic facilities and rehabilitation centres - so it’s understandable there are plenty of questions on the topic of infection control.
How Can the Number of HAIs Be Reduced?
Having a clear and thorough procedure, as well as following the standard precautions and infection control measures, helps to ensure surfaces are effectively sanitised and disinfected. Proper disinfecting measures kill infections before they have a chance to be passed on to a vulnerable patient. All workers in healthcare settings must practice correct hygiene and infection control procedures to ensure they don’t pass bacteria from room to room.
What is the Role of Infection Control Precautions in Healthcare?
Implementing infection control measures are a must when it comes to ensuring a hospital or healthcare facility remains safe for patients and residents. Effective infection control precautions, equipment and clinical products help to ensure patients don’t acquire a HAI that could prolong their hospital stay or even cause a preventable death.
How Can You Protect a Patient from Infection?
Staff and other health service providers in hospitals can be the difference when it comes to a high or low rate of infection transmission within a hospital/healthcare facility. Following a step-by-step procedure and using the right disinfectants in a hospital environment can greatly improve infection control and therefore reduce transmission.
Hand hygiene is one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent the transmission of infections, however there is a large gap between best practices and reality. Every staff member who treats a patient should wash their hands before seeing the next patient to ensure a high level of hygiene.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Use personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times when and where required throughout a hospital. Wearing PPE is an important way to take care in ensuring your clothing doesn't become a source of transmission.
Stay Home if You're Unwell
Staff shouldn't enter hospitals and other healthcare facilities if they are feeling unwell. This is crucial in preventing the transmission of viruses and diseases between yourself and colleagues or patients. If you need to cough or sneeze while on shift, use the upper part of your sleeve (or a tissue) and practice good hand hygiene. The annual flu vaccination is recommended for all healthcare staff.
Keep the Working Environment Clean
Measures should be taken to ensure the patient's surroundings are cleaned and disinfected regularly. This helps to reduce the likelihood of virus or disease transmission in the area. When a patient leaves their room and uses high touch surfaces (such as the handrail or lift button), encourage them to practice good hand hygiene.
Are There Strict Guidelines and Standards for Infection Control?
Each healthcare facility is likely to have identical standards to the next when it comes to infection prevention and management of transmission routes. Following any recommended procedures correctly helps to ensure bacteria and viruses are eliminated before transmission between staff and/or patients can even take place. However, the Australian Guidelines for the Prevention and Control of Infection have prepared infection control recommendations that should be followed in relation to a range of risk factors including hand hygiene, handling of sharps, cleaning and disinfecting the physical environment, droplet and airborne precautions, PPE, management of multi-resistant organisms, and outbreak investigation and management.
If your organisation needs information on hospital grade disinfectant products that can help reduce transmission and assist in the management of infections, call Helix Solutions on 1300 29 32 32 or contact us online