Best Practices to Avoid Infection Outbreaks in HospitalsSurbhi Dixit
Prevention Guideline for Nosocomial Infections
Hospitals and healthcare institutions are places where the environment is safe and caring to enable the patients to get better. However, ground realities state that one in every 31 patients at a healthcare facility acquires at least one nosocomial infection, says CDC. The irony has been established; there is a need to actively practice hygiene and sanitization measures to ensure that hospital-acquired diseases stay as low as practically possible.
There are specific guidelines to help healthcare facilities chart their nosocomial infection policies and educate their staff. However, before diving right into it, let’s correctly understand what nosocomial infections are.
What are Nosocomial Infections?
Nosocomial infections, better known as Hospital-Acquired infections, are certain infectious diseases that develop in persons inside the hospital 48 hours after admission. For such infections to be classified as nosocomial, the essential condition is that the infection be absent in the visitor at the time of admission and develop instead in the next 48 hours.
Nosocomial infections occur when pathogens that develop resistance to multiple drugs get transmitted via air, water, contact, or invasive means into the bodies of those at a hospital. They may also happen due to improper hygiene and infection control protocols or neglect in sanitation or waste disposal.
It is of utmost importance to stop the spread of infectious diseases at a hospital. Let’s see why.
Importance of Controlling Nosocomial Infections
Nosocomial infections can become notorious if an effective protocol is not implemented to put a damper on their spread. Some of the problems that can arise due to rampant HAIs are as follows:
- Patient outcome is directly impacted, as they are the most vulnerable to acquiring infections from unhygienic conditions prevailing at a healthcare institute
- Indirect costs to the hospital and the patient’s increase
- Employees and other residents or visiting staff at the healthcare institute are also exposed to the risk of acquiring nosocomial infections.
- The healthcare facility’s reputation is put at risk; the institution may risk losing its accreditations and licenses.
In light of the issues stated above, preventing nosocomial infections is an imperative that shouldn’t be procrastinated on or avoided.
5 Best Practices to Avoid Infection Outbreaks in Hospitals
To ensure that the hospital environment stays as sanitized as possible, follow the best practices prescribed by WHO listed below to help control HAIs.
Infection outbreaks often begin with an unchecked spread of infection from one individual (or waste or any other source of dangerous pathogens). Therefore, hospitals need to ensure an effective method, equipment, and mechanism on the premises to isolate the source of infection. For example, the COVID-19 outbreak required hospitals to devise isolation wards for patients as this virus was highly contagious. In effect, the infection control policy needs to contain mandates for isolation measures at hospitals if there is a high-spread contagion identified.
Hospitals should also ensure the availability of suitable equipment, like PPE kits, gloves, masks, etc., that aid caregiving to isolated patients.
Cleanliness and Hygiene
There is no other source of high-damage pathogens than hospital waste left unattended or poorly disposed of. The nature of waste at hospitals is high-hazard, and if not handled with care and disposed of properly, it can turn into a potential infection spreader. Establishing cleanliness and waste disposal mandates at hospitals is the first step to preventing nosocomial infections. Next, personal hygiene practices need to be drilled into the staff working at the facility. Caregiving to infected patients could be contagious if personal hygiene is poor.
It isn’t just through air or contact that nosocomial infections spread; invasive procedures performed on patients with objects that contain pathogens can also lead to the spread of hospital-acquired diseases. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that all surgical and patient-contact equipment be sterilized either physically or chemically. The process destroys germs on the surface of medical instruments, making them safe for use on exposed human tissue. Sterilization of tools and equipment should be done after each use, regardless of duration.
Disinfection removes the pathogens housed on high-touch surfaces in hospital premises, such as door handles, railings, desks, papers and pens, benches, chairs, tables, etc. To ensure no infection from contaminated surfaces, frequent disinfection of the healthcare facility should be practiced – preferably by trained professionals with dedicated equipment (sprayers, automated devices, PPEs, etc.). In addition, it is vital to schedule disinfection periodically to ensure that there is no incubation of pathogens on high-touch surfaces inside the premises.
According to WHO, the hands of healthcare workers are the most potent carriers of nosocomial infections. Things being so, healthcare institutions should educate their healthcare workers in the importance of hand hygiene, proper ways to wash and disinfect hands, when and how frequently to wash hands, what kind of soap to use, to carry sanitizers around at all times, to use sanitizers before and after handling patients, etc. In addition, a guidebook should be in place that outlines the risks and preventive measures associated with bad hand hygiene at a hospital.
Nosocomial infections can be controlled by simply inculcating cleanliness and conscious hygiene in the day-to-day activities at a hospital. Mindful habits that prevent the spread of diseases are usually enough to ensure the health and safety of those inside a healthcare facility. RARE Hospitality is a leading Comprehensive Hospitality & Facilities Management company with over 3 decades of experience & knowledge leadership to manage the end-to-end Facility Management of your Hospital, click here to get in touch with our consultants.