According to Public Health Ontario, over 1.4 million people worldwide suffer from infections acquired in hospital at any time. In Canada, it is estimated that 220,000 incidents of healthcare associated infections (HAIs) occur each year, resulting in more than 8,000 deaths. Cleaning hands, although a simple action, plays a significant role in preventing the spread of these infections. In fact, according to Public Health Ontario, hand hygiene is the single most effective measure to reduce HAIs. For that reason, it is championed as a priority at Runnymede Healthcare Centre in various ways, including awareness, education and monitoring.
“Hand hygiene is integral to enhancing patient safety and is a vital part of our infection control strategy,” says Chief Nursing Executive Raj Sewda. “Runnymede’s cumulative hand hygiene compliance rate for 2012-2013 before patient contact was 87.14 per cent, which is above the provincial average. This speaks to our staff’s ongoing commitment to achieving the highest standards in the quality of care that we provide to our patients.”
As healthcare workers move from patient to patient and room to room to provide care, their hands touch many surfaces and encounter many opportunities for transmitting organisms that may cause infections. Accordingly, the most common way for the transfer of germs is through the hands. Runnymede’s staff and volunteers rarely forget this. They see firsthand how easily germs stay on the hands through the Ultraviolet (UV) Glo Germ test conducted during general orientation for new staff and volunteers.
In this test, the infection control practitioner first passes around a bottle of what appears to be alcohol based hand rub during the education session. Believing the substance is hand sanitizer, employees rub the gel all over their hands. They don’t realize the substance is actually Glo Germ—a gel that mimics the effect of bacteria on the hands and is only visible under UV light—until after they are asked to wash off the substance and place their hands under a UV lamp for inspection. Since UV light reveals any residue that is not washed off properly, employees see clearly for themselves the areas they may easily miss while cleaning their hands. They also learn techniques for washing their hands more effectively going forward.
Rigorous audits are important in order to support infection control protocols, identify and address barriers to compliance and subsequently improve standards for infection control practices across the hospital. Each month, Runnymede’s infection control practitioner and manager of environmental services perform a UV audit in which gel pens containing Glo Germ are placed on critical touch points of the patient environment. After a standard cleaning, a UV light can be used to identify locations that may need extra attention. This allows Runnymede’s infection control and environmental services staff to work in collaboration to identify possible areas for quality improvement and continue to maintain the cleanest and safest environment for patients.
Protecting patients, staff and volunteers through immunization is another integral component of infection control. In addition to an institution wide influenza (commonly known as “the flu”) vaccination program for high-risk patients, Runnymede conducts an influenza vaccination campaign for staff and volunteers. This ensures that everyone recognizes the importance of the flu shot in order to strengthen their body’s natural immune response against the flu and in turn prevent spreading it to others.
As of December 2012, Runnymede’s influenza immunization rate for healthcare workers was 80 per cent, which is significantly higher than 58.5 per cent, the average healthcare worker immunization rate for Toronto’s complex continuing care facilities. This is extremely important based on Runnymede’s patient population: adults with chronic diseases and underlying medical conditions such as heart or kidney disease, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes. These patients are at a greater risk of developing flu related complications which can have serious healthcare related outcomes.
The interprofessional team at Runnymede work together to identify and reduce the risk of hospital acquired infections (HAI) by implementing educational initiatives, audits and immunization campaigns. These diligent practices keep patients safe and support the success of the hospital in reaching and surpassing targets and benchmarks for key clinical indicators, all evidence of ongoing leadership in safety and quality improvement.