Hospitals have come a very long way in the last few years, particularly when it comes to infection prevention and control in our hospitals. We have much more rigorous standards and protocols, stronger cleaning agents, better hand hygiene compliance, and – perhaps most importantly – much greater awareness among professionals and the public.
The media, on behalf of the public we serve, continue to show great interest in infection control, especially when it comes to C. difficile, a very challenging infectious disease that is quite literally everywhere in our environment. Today the program CBC Marketplace will air an episode that highlights some challenges related to properly cleaning our hospitals in light of recent outbreaks of C. difficile. I was interviewed for this program, and tried to convey a few very important points including:
- Hospital workers including clinical and medical team members and all our support services – especially our colleagues who have the important role in cleaning – are very engaged and committed to the best patient care in a safe environment. No one comes to work to do a bad job.
- Hospital standards for infection control are more rigorous than ever before, and the organizations I represent have standards that exceed our provincial expectations and have been endorsed by Dr. Michael Gardam and the Province’s Infection Control Resource Team.
- We are collectively fighting a very difficult battle against superbugs in hospitals. The 3 most important factors in winning this battle are:
- Being careful with antibiotics. Superbugs are more prevalent today because of our use of stronger antibiotics. These antibiotics create the environment in the body where superbugs thrive. When individuals require antibiotics, we have to ensure we aren’t using drugs that predispose patients to hospital-acquired infections, while also treating the illness that has brought them to hospital.
- Washing our hands constantly. Many cases of hospital-acquired infection are transmitted because of poor hand hygiene by healthcare workers, visitors, and even patients. Patients and family members should feel comfortable asking their healthcare providers to wash their hands if they forget, should wash their own hands frequently, and should not visit hospitals if they are feeling unwell.
- Cleaning our hospitals very thoroughly. In recent years NHS has invested considerably in cleaning staff and resources. We need to clean our hospitals as best we can, with the most powerful agents available, and also need to use new technologies like UV light when they are found to enhance the effectiveness of our cleaning.
CBC Marketplace did identify instances where they believe we did not clean areas in our hospitals properly. This is a clear area where we need to continue to improve, and we are taking these findings very seriously. We have already spent additional resources and energy on cleaning in our hospitals in recent years, but will revisit this issue to ensure we have the best staff training, better audits of performance, and the right tools so that staff can do a great job every day. We will also be meeting with all our cleaning staff to hear any other concerns or barriers that they feel may be stopping them from ensuring the safest, cleanest hospitals. I was also disappointed to hear that some staff felt they could not raise their concerns, and I very sincerely invite those individuals to contact me at my confidential email email@example.com.