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Niagara Health demonstrates outstanding hand hygiene practices

Posted May 5th, 2010

Niagara, Ontario: Increased awareness of new practices in hand hygiene has led to a significant shift in culture in which healthcare providers and support staff at the Niagara Health System (NHS) wash their hands much more frequently at key times in their interactions with patients.

“Good hand hygiene results in better, safer care, and it is a necessity for anyone in the hospital environment, particularly for those who come into contact with patients,” says Niagara Health Vice President Frank Demizio. “Our increased efforts in promoting proper hand washing have resulted in a significant rise in the number of healthcare providers and support staff cleaning their hands before and after every contact with patients.” 

Over the last year, Niagara Health has held educational sessions, increased hand-washing signage containing tips, and encouraged discussions among staff on how to improve hand hygiene. Additional alcohol hand dispensers for use by staff and the public were installed across all sites that are within an arm’s reach of patient beds and in key areas in hallways, meeting rooms and other high-traffic areas.

“Niagara Health takes hand washing seriously and the results speak for themselves,” says Frank. “We are very pleased that our healthcare professionals and support staff are leaders in the province with respect to hand hygiene practices.”

The first hand hygiene audit was conducted in March 2009 at all sites and on all units during various shifts. All healthcare professionals and support staff who came into contact with patients were audited. These audits were conducted again over the past year, leading to a 90 per cent overall compliance rate across all sites for the 2009-2010 fiscal year (April 2009 to March 2010). The increased focus on hand hygiene will continue to be a priority to sustain this success.

In addition, during the last fiscal year, the number of infection outbreaks at Niagara Health has decreased by 55 per cent as compared to the previous fiscal year.

Healthcare providers generally clean their hands when they are visibly soiled, sticky or gritty, or for personal hygiene purposes. Usually these indications require hand washing with soap and water. This “habit” is frequently learned in early childhood.

Other hand hygiene indications unique to healthcare settings are not triggered by the “habit” to clean the hands. Highlighting these indications in healthcare are needed to create new “habits”. Examples of actions in healthcare that do not naturally trigger a need to clean hands include touching a patient, taking a pulse or blood pressure, or touching the environment. 

Niagara Health will be joining hospitals today for STOP! Clean Your Hands Day, a national event organized by the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, Accreditation Canada and the Community and Hospital Infection Control Association-Canada.  This first-ever STOP! Clean Your Hands Day coincides with a global initiative of the World Health Organization, Save Lifes, Clean Your Hands Day.

All sites across Niagara Health will participate in the national event which promotes optimal hand hygiene practices at the hospital. 
“Good hand hygiene is an important practice for everyone, including patients and visitors,” says Frank. “Hand cleaning is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of many infections.” 

TIPS FOR CLEANING HANDS PROPERLY:

  1. Rub all parts of the hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and running water
  2. Pay special attention to fingertips, between fingers, backs of hands and base of the thumbs
  3. Keep nails short and clean
  4. Remove rings and bracelets    
  5. Do not wear artificial nails
  6. Remove chipped nail polish
  7. Make sure that sleeves are pushed up and do not get wet
  8. Clean hands for a minimum of 15 seconds
  9. Dry hands thoroughly
  10. Apply lotion to hands frequently

For more information, contact:

Caroline Bourque Wiley
Public Affairs Consultant
905-378-4647, ext. 43113
cwiley@niagarahealth.on.ca

Niagara Health System