No one expects to enter a healthcare setting and acquire a serious infection. But every year in Australia 180,000 patients suffer healthcare-associated infections that prolong their hospital stay and take 2 million hospital bed days. Not to mention the risk it poses to the health workforce.
Keeping hospitals and other care facilities free from infections has been a problem for centuries. But with the right products and procedures, it is possible to greatly reduce the incidence of infections and target prevention in the first place.
Why Is Infection Control Such an Issue in Healthcare Settings?
Infections are more likely to occur and spread in healthcare settings because of the large number of people requiring health services that are carrying all kinds of germs. Other settings tend to have fewer pathogens in larger areas so the risk is significantly reduced. Many of the people in healthcare and long-term residential settings are immune-compromised and/or aged, so their body has less chance of fighting off an infection compared to a healthier and/or younger person.
COVID-19 has shown how important infection control practices are in healthcare settings. And adding the highly contagious factor makes it even more difficult to bring the situation under control when an outbreak occurs. Moreover, COVID-19 is not the only problem because there are plenty of other infections that have been around for much longer that can be just as deadly to patients.
Common Hospital-Acquired Infections
Hospital Acquired Infections (HAI) is a common but preventable risk to patient safety. An HAI 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) - occurs when germs (e.g., 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) - 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 – a bacteria that causes symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon.
- Urinary tract infections - an infection in the kidneys, ureters, bladder or urethra caused by a catheter
- Pneumonia - inflammation of the lung’s air sacs caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi.
- Norovirus - acute gastroenteritis
What is the Most Common Type of Healthcare-Associated Infection?
Central line-associated bloodstream infections, catheter-related urinary tract infections and surgical site infections have been identified as the most lethal, costly and common infections.
5 Standard Precautions for Infection Prevention & Control
The Australian Department of Health lists the following standard precautions to achieve a basic level of infection control, which also aid in infection prevention:
- Hand hygiene and cough etiquette
- The use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
- The safe use and disposal of sharps
- Routine environmental cleaning
- Incorporation of safe practices for handling blood, body fluids and secretions as well as excretions.
Routine Environmental Cleaning to Enhance Health Benefits
Sanitising and disinfecting healthcare settings are imperative for ensuring vulnerable patients don’t suffer an HAI. Years of research and case studies have allowed facilities to improve their cleaning practices to reduce the incidence of infections and stop their spread.
Effective disinfecting products are essential in control practices to kill the germs that cause HAIs. Products must be easy and efficient to use. The 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 for the two-step process of cleaning before disinfecting.
In recent years, drains and sinks were proven 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 that can re-enter a room. A physical barrier such as Green Drain is required so sinks and drains can flush out without any disease, odour or insect return.
FAQs about Healthcare Infection Control
Healthcare infections don’t just occur in hospitals and aged care facilities, they can occur in general practice clinics, dental clinics, community health facilities, paramedic facilities and rehabilitation centres. Find the answer to common questions about infection control.
How can healthcare-associated infections be reduced?
Adhering to standard cleaning procedures is not enough. To reduce infections and contribute to public health it is important to follow infection control guidelines which ensure surfaces are effectively sanitised and disinfected. Proper disinfecting kills infections before they have a chance to impact a vulnerable patient. All workers in healthcare settings must practise correct hygiene procedures to ensure they don’t transmit bacteria from room to room.
What is the role of infection control in healthcare?
Infection control ensures healthcare facilities remain safe for patients and residents. Effective practices ensure patients don’t acquire an HAI that could prolong their hospital stay or cause a preventable death. It also contributes to patients' mental health by providing peace of mind during their stay at the facilities.
How can you protect a patient from infection?
Providing staff in hospitals with training on precautions and safety protocols can make the difference between high and low rates of HAI. Following these simple guidelines can greatly reduce the incidence.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to control infection however it has one of the worst gaps between best practice and reality. Every staff member who treats a patient should wash their hands before seeing the next patient.
Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)
Use PPE effectively when required. When you’re not wearing PPE, make sure your clothing doesn’t become a source of infection.
Stay home if you’re unwell
Staff shouldn’t enter a healthcare workplace if they’re feeling unwell in case they have a virus that could be transmitted to colleagues or patients. If you need to cough or sneeze while at work, use the upper part of your sleeve or a tissue and wash your hands thoroughly. The annual flu vaccination is recommended for all staff too
Keep the environment clean
The patient’s surroundings should be cleaned and disinfected regularly. When a patient leaves their room and uses high-touch surfaces like the handrail or lift button, encourage them to wash their hands thoroughly.
What is good infection control?
Good infection control is following procedures correctly to ensure bacteria and viruses are eliminated before they have a chance to infect one or multiple patients. The Australian Guidelines for the Prevention and Control of Infection include recommendations on 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, outbreak investigation and management.
What are the 4 control methods for infectious diseases?
According to the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, the standard precautions for basic infection prevention and control strategies include:
- Hand hygiene
- Personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Appropriate handling and disposal of sharps
If your organisation needs information on prevention and effective disinfectant products for the healthcare industry, call Helix Solutions on 1300 29 32 32 or contact us online.