Though one enters a hospital precisely for treatment of illness, the risk of further acquiring a disease does not stop at the front desk or at your doctor’s door. Rather, there is a chance of that risk magnifying because of a patient’s exposure to a wider variety of bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens.
Both public and private hospitals are enjoined to address not only treatment but also the task of disease prevention. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report on hospital hygiene and infection control, two key principles should be employed in preventing infection: separating the infection source, and cutting off any route of transmission.
If you are involved in the profession of medicine and public health, start your campaign against the spread of disease in hospitals among both patients and medical staff. Here are five simple and easily communicable ways.
Clear out waste and soiled materials
WHO cites the waste generated in hospitals as a breeding ground of pathogenic microorganisms; what develops from contracting these microorganisms is infection.
Instruct anyone who comes into the hospital to properly handle and dispose used bandages, soiled tissues, liquids, and the like. Remove any allowances for pathogens to thrive in contaminated materials.
Properly sterilize medical tools and devices
Sterilizing means rendering a tool free of microorganisms, and all reusable equipment must be properly cleaned and maintained before it comes in contact with a patient. Everything from handheld tools used by staff, to the “power tools” with their own motor systems for diagnostics and surgery, requires its own sterilization process.
For example, machine instructions should be followed to keep sterilizable brushless DC motors, which are present in many medical devices and can endure more washer cycles than other motors, up to tip-top shape. Actions like these means paying attention from the manual to the mechanical, and making sure that doctors, nurses, medical technicians, and maintenance staff are all on the same page about how to keep the gears and tools at the highest level to perform.
Equipping staff with the essentials
Then, ensure that your medical staff all have easy access to the things they must need to fulfill their duties—meaning, clean latex gloves, face masks, aprons, and gowns—all of which will prevent personnel from coming into contact with human tissue and body fluids, as well as contaminated surfaces.
Advocate cleanliness or proper disposal of any of these supplies among the staff—throwing away used latex, plastic, and fabric disposables, and fastidiously washing clothes and uniforms. Each staff member’s conscientiousness goes a long way for their fellow professionals, their patients, and the hospital’s visitors.
Thoroughly clean rooms, toilets, and other patient facilities
Aside from other people, things that come in contact with patients—and thus, possible contaminants—are fixtures of clinics and hospital rooms, such as mattresses, bed sheets, linens, and pillows. Aside from these, there are also comfort rooms and the supplies necessary to keep them clean and hygienic, as well as other patient facilities such as lobbies, waiting rooms, and playrooms. All of these stand as potential routes for pathogens to follow toward new hosts.
Limit the patient risk for acquiring diseases from human waste, bodily secretions, and airborne pathogens with good housekeeping and maintenance practices all around—as simple as regularly changing sheets, washing fabrics, scrubbing floors and cubicles, and making sure that there is enough tissue paper, antibacterial soap, or hand sanitizer to go around.
Foster culture of good sanitation, health, and hygiene among patients
Medical staff alone cannot fight disease effectively; disease prevention strategies must be communicated to patients and visitors that they can, and should, do their part in keeping the hospital a healthier place when they come inside.
Encourage incoming patients and visitors to come ready with their own face masks, to disinfect and cover any open wounds with bandages before entering, and to disinfect their hands by using the sanitizing alcohol solution provided in each floor station. Especially among patients should the mindset of “prevention is better than cure” be ingrained.
No two hospitals are alike; each will service its own main demographic and have its own roster of practitioners in certain specialties. But the advocacy of the health sector should remain the same across all fronts: to combat disease; to invest in and take care of all external technologies; to foster a positive (and not contagious!) culture of action, and to strengthen the hospital as a place for healing and saving lives.