How UHN prevents bugs from striking the hospital community

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Fall marks University Health Network’s (UHN) annual The Bug Stops Here and staff flu vaccination campaigns. Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) and Occupational Health and Safety staff are synchronizing their swatters to prevent bugs from striking the UHN community.

As in past years, UHN’s flu campaign will be launched simultaneously with Infection Prevention and Control week, with emphasis on ensuring that all UHN staff gets their free flu shot. The campaign will also educate staff about a possible influenza pandemic and more importantly, what UHN is doing to prepare for a pandemic, and what staff can do to protect patients and themselves from outbreaks.

“While there is no vaccination against a pandemic at this time, a flu shot is a good way to increase your overall immunity against this year’s known flu strains. The more flu shots you’ve received over time, the greater the protection you’ll have against different viruses, some of which may have some similarities to an eventual pandemic strain,” says Dr. Michael Gardam, Director, Infection Prevention and Control, UHN. “Getting a flu shot and practicing infection control should be part of everybody’s daily practice – especially if you work in a hospital where you are likely to be exposed to infectious diseases.”

To make it as easy as possible for UHN staff to get their flu shot, nurses with “flu carts” will circulate all three sites (which include Toronto General, Toronto Western and Princess Margaret hospitals), traveling to units and clinics. UHN also takes into account that staff may miss the mobile carts; these staff can to head to their site’s occupational health clinics for their shot. “I believe our Occupational Health and Safety department runs the best flu vaccination campaign in the GTA,” says Dr. Gardam. “Many other hospitals have contacted our staff to find out how the UHN program is so successful.”

During IPAC week, there are lots of informative and fun activities to educate staff on the importance of good IPAC practices and the types of services IPAC offers at UHN. There are information booths set up at each site, “Lunch and Learn” sessions with Dr. Gardam, and contests to test staff knowledge of infection control.

“Infection Prevention and Control week is an opportunity for us to focus on our practices and where we can improve,” says Dr. Gardam. “In light of recent outbreaks in long-term care homes, it is important that our staff exercise vigilance in IPAC practices, and maintain open communications with IPAC professionals.” IPAC week is just one way we provide staff with the tools and awareness that they need to prevent and stop the spread of infectious disease outbreaks,” adds Dr. Gardam.

Educating staff about IPAC practices is an on-going process at UHN. The IPAC intranet site is a major tool for educating UHN staff about IPAC’s routine practices and services they provide. There are simple FAQs on the site, it allows staff to request an education session for their department, staff can download videos on such things as proper hand-washing techniques, and there are even brief bios and pictures of the IPAC team so that UHN staff can know who to contact when they have IPAC questions.