Hospitals hold a position of great trust. Communities across the States believe visiting a hospital, be it for their own treatment or to spend time with friends or relatives, will be a safe experience. During times of illness, whether it affects yourself or a loved one, the fear of further infection or injury only stands to make these periods even harder.
However, more than 40,000 medical errors occur in American hospitals every day, with one of the most problematic being the spread of lethal infections. CDC statistics show that around one in 25 hospital patients picks up at least one HAI (healthcare-associated infection). According to a report published in 2016, referring to data from 2014, there has been:
- A 50 percent drop in central line-associated bloodstream infections (otherwise known as CLABSI) from 2008 to 2014
- No rise or fall in catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI) from 2009 to 2014
- A 17 percent drop in surgical site infections (SSI)
- A 17 percent decrease in abdominal hysterectomy SSI from 2008 and 2014
- A 2 percent drop in colon surgery SSI from 2008 to 2014
The spread of infections is due to poor sanitation, with unclean hands, equipment, and clothing going without the attention they deserve. Boston University research into 49 operating rooms across four hospitals in New England discovered that over half of all objects which should have undergone disinfection were left untouched by cleaning staff. With hundreds, or even thousands, of patients passing through hospitals every week, keeping spaces and equipment clean is obviously a mammoth task, but is literally a matter of life and death.
No hospital wants to endanger patients. No hospital wants to earn a bad reputation for its poor hygiene and spreading diseases. However, as the CDC report illustrates, hospitals across the States are facing severe difficulty with combating infectious bacteria spread by unsterilized equipment or rooms.
What are the Most Common HAI Problems?
CLABSI causes thousands of fatalities each year, with a third of America’s 100,000 estimated HAI deaths resulting from this infection. This occurs when a patient has a central line fitted without due care, with symptoms including chills, fevers, and sore inflammation around the catheter’s insertion point. To help prevent CLABSI, staff must remain attention at all times when inserting or removing a central line.
In California, hospitals are ordered to provide reports demonstrating their adherence of the official guidelines. Patients are advised to ask their doctor or nurse if they have washed their hands thoroughly, to ensure they are wearing a mask and sterile gown, and to clean the relevant area of skin with an antiseptic product before insertion.
CAUTIs, on the other hand, are the most common HAI. The major cause of this infection is an indwelling catheter, which is a tube inserted directly into the patient’s urethra to drain urine into a bag. Symptoms include cloudy or bloody urine, and pressure or discomfort in the stomach or lower back.
Bacteria entering the urinary tract through the catheter is the most frequent reason behind CAUTIs. This may result from a failure to clean the bag on a regular occasion, or for an unhygienic environment around the patient producing unhealthy amounts of bacteria.
From looking at these two common infections, the importance of effective cleaning and hygiene in hospitals is clear to see. How can hospitals and other healthcare establishments improve their cleanliness standards to avoid these and other sanitation-related issues?
How Can Hospitals Improve Their Hygiene?
One way for hospitals to become more hygienic is to maximize the quality of their cleaning. To do this, they need to provide their janitorial staff with better equipment which reduces expenses, cuts wastage, and ensures a more efficient process.
Microfiber mops, microfiber cloths, and microfiber pads can all lead to a faster, more efficient clean. Microfiber is made with much smaller fibers than standard cotton or nylon cleaning products, which collects more dirt in fewer passes of dirty surfaces.
As microfiber also absorbs more water than standard cotton loop mops or cloths, microfiber mops and microfiber cloths can be used with far less water. Not only does this lead to a safer post-clean floor, it also reduces the amount of water going to waste. There is also no need for chemical-based detergents, eliminating the risks of harmful fumes or skin irritation.
Hospitals can also provide staff, visitors, and patients with more resources and materials to combat lax hygiene. For example, extra alcohol dispensers, informative posters, and audio advice can all contribute to a safer environment. Raising awareness is key, but this must be done in such a way that engages patients, providing information without condescening.
As more and more hospitals make a greater effort to adhere to sanitation standards, and turn to cheaper, more efficient cleaning materials, the number of infections & injuries picked up at hospitals can only drop. This will lead to fewer infections, fewer deaths, and less money being spent on problems which could be avoided otherwise.