Infection control is incredibly important in any healthcare facility. From doctor’s surgeries to hospitals to aged care facilities, preventing the spread of illness and infection is a priority. Keeping all patients and staff safe from the risk of diseases is key to offering the highest quality of patient care.
It’s crucial that healthcare facilities have rigorous and extensive infection control policies and procedures in place. Here are seven of the most important infection control procedures that healthcare professionals need to follow.
1: Hand Hygiene for Staff and Patients
The hands of patients and healthcare staff are the main pathways of germ transmission in most facilities. Hands can pick up dirt, viruses and bacteria from surfaces, equipment and infected patients. These contaminated hands can then spread infection when they come into contact with other staff, patients or equipment.
Fortunately, proper hand hygiene routines can reduce the risk posed by dirty hands. Both healthcare staff and patients should routinely wash their hands. Patients need to wash their hands before meals, after using the toilet, and after dealing with bodily fluids — for example, after blowing their nose, sneezing or coughing. Healthcare professionals should routinely encourage and remind patients to wash their hands, and remember to wash their own hands before and after contact with a patient or a patient’s surroundings.
2: Clean and Disinfect Surfaces
Surfaces and equipment in healthcare facilities can become breeding grounds for bacteria if not kept sparkling clean. With patients, staff and visitors coming and going while touching various surfaces and sharing equipment, germs can easily be spread around the physical environment.
To ensure healthcare facilities are a safe environment for patients and staff, all surfaces and equipment should be routinely cleaned and disinfected per infection control guidelines. All surfaces should be cleaned frequently, at least once a day, while visibly soiled surfaces need immediate attention.
3: Staff Should Take Contact Precautions
Even with thorough hand hygiene procedures in place, there’s still the risk of infections spreading through contact. Staff should take contact precautions to protect themselves from germs and prevent the accidental spread of infection to other patients.
Staff should avoid unnecessary physical contact with patients and wear personal protective gear when it is necessary. For example, gloves and gowns should be worn when there’s a risk of contamination through bodily substances. Personal protective gear should be disposed of after coming into contact with a patient.
4: Investigate All Outbreaks
Infection outbreaks, no matter how minor, should be taken seriously by healthcare facilities. To ensure infections don’t spread further, and to prevent future outbreaks from occurring, investigate all incidents.
The infection must be diagnosed and its cause identified. To reduce the risk of further contagion, control measures need to be enforced and continually evaluated to ensure the facility has responded effectively.
5: Protect against Airborne Infections
Some bugs and infections are transmitted through the air, and patients or staff may inhale airborne pathogenic organisms. Types of airborne diseases include the common cold, as well as more serious illnesses such as measles, whooping cough, tuberculosis and influenza.
These infections can be hard to control, but the spread of infection is preventable with precautions such as avoiding close contact with infectious patients. Patients should cover their mouths and noses after coughing, sneezing or blowing their nose, and healthcare staff should wear face masks around those with airborne infections.
Patients with severe airborne infections should be isolated, and healthcare facilities may choose to use a room with negative air pressure to prevent contagion.
6: Place Patients Strategically
Healthcare facilities can often prevent outbreaks by placing patients strategically to avoid contamination. Place highly infectious patients in isolation, and use signage on doors to warn staff and visitors of contamination risks.
Staff should ideally avoid moving infected patients to other rooms or departments, as germs can be spread during the transfer, especially if the illness can spread through the air or via droplets.
Patients in shared rooms should also be placed with infection control in mind. Strategic layouts, with patients at least three feet apart, can prevent patients spreading illnesses to one another.
7: Monitor HVAC Systems
With many infections threatening airborne contamination, health facilities need to monitor their indoor air quality. HVAC systems should be regularly inspected as they can help transmit airborne diseases. They should provide adequate ventilation and have high-efficiency particulate air filtration. HEPA Filters in HVAC systems can trap particles in filters, preventing infectious particles from circulating throughout the facility.
Bug Control helps healthcare facilities in Australia protect their patients from infections. We can help your facility meet infection control guidelines. Just book a free consultation with us and one of our IPC experts will be in touch.