The bug stops at University Health Network

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University Health Network (UHN) is putting its foot down and stomping out infectious bugs that want to take a bite out of patients, staff, and visitors. UHN’s three teaching hospital’s – Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital, and Princess Margaret Hospital – are gearing up for the second year of “The Bug Stops Here,” its ongoing Infection Control Campaign. The Bug Stops Here is all about protecting the UHN community from infectious diseases.

In the wake of SARS, infection prevention catapulted up the agenda of hospitals across the province, says Dr. Michael Gardam, UHN’s Director of Infection Prevention and Control.

But the Bug Stops Here campaign is about much more than that. With new strains of flu and viruses popping up all over the world, recent bouts with Norwalk Virus and an increase in Tuberculosis cases in Toronto, hospitals need to heighten awareness about taking precautions that are all encompassing.

“The reality is we live in a shrinking global village, where infectious diseases can arrive virtually within hours from any of the four corners of the world,” said Dr. Gardam. “We can’t just be content putting up a wall to prevent SARS from entering our hospitals if other infectious diseases are going to sneak around the corners.”

“The Bug Stops Here is all about educating everyone about every thing that has to do with practicing basic common sense in non-outbreak times,” he added. “That includes everything from wearing protective clothing when dealing with people suspected of having a respiratory illness, right down to the basics such as hand washing.”

Last October, staff from Infection Control, Employee Communicable Diseases Surveillance (ECDS), and the Health Surveillance Office – created after SARS to screen individuals for infectious symptoms – all pulled together to plan and launch the Bug Stops Here campaign during National Infection Prevention Control Week.

Flu carts, complete with balloons and chocolate bars for those who rolled up their sleeves, rolled from unit-to-unit vaccinating staff. Prizes were handed out for educational quizzes about infectious diseases. To breed healthy competition, the Beat the Flu Bug Challenge pitted hospital against hospital to see who could vaccinate the most staff. At the end of the day, Princess Margaret Hospital won by a whisker and took home the cup.

Dr. Gardam said the hard work done by his “bug zappers” paid off. University Health Network’s three hospitals ranked one, two and three in the city in terms of staff vaccinated.

“The end result is, if our staff are healthy, our patients will be healthier and not at risk of contracting infections from our employees,” said Dr. Gardam. “People are changing the way they work now and taking the basic precautions more seriously and that makes a world of difference.” Leading this year’s charge is ECDS supervisor, Rebecca Santos.

“Our practitioners will once again swarm the hospitals and ‘bug” all our staff so that they are reminded constantly about practicing excellent infection control techniques,” she said.

Along with the flu carts, competitions and quizzes, Bug Stops Here booths will be set up in hospital lobbies where patients, staff, and visitors can ask questions and try new products.

And who could resist the opportunity of watching their boss take one for the team? Employees will have several chances to watch senior managers and hospital leaders wince while being vaccinated for the flu during several “public needlings.”

Ouch!