Hospital Privacy Curtains: A Harbour for Infectious Agents

Source: Wikimedia Commons

On this blog, we have already reviewed many of the sources of a major health problem: hospital-acquired infections (HAIs). And yet, every day, researchers seem to discover new sources of HAIs. One of the latest discoveries is that hospital privacy curtains in hospital rooms are extremely contaminated with pathogens. A study conducted in Winnipeg, Canada, revealed that freshly hung hospital curtains with minimal contamination became more contaminated each day that they hung in the hospital rooms. Furthermore, after 14 days of being in the room, 87.5% of the curtains were tested positive for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Kevin Shek (Bsc), the leader of the study on hospital privacy curtains carrying pathogens, writes,

“We know that privacy curtains pose a high risk for cross-contamination because they are frequently touched but infrequently changed.”

Kevin Shek (2018)

Healthcare facilities have been placing a great amount of effort in reducing the risk of HAIs in terms of hand-washing and the cleaning of equipment and high-touch surfaces, however, other things such as curtains, mattresses, and bedsheets have often been overlooked. A survey that was conducted to determine how hospital privacy curtains are cleaned/changed revealed frightening results. Only about half of the hospitals had a written policy which specified how often the curtains needed to be changed. 37% of respondents answered that hospital curtains were changed only when visibly soiled. 13% of respondents answered that the curtains were changed only once per year. Considering the results obtained from the Winnipeg hospital study, where curtains became increasingly more contaminated with each day that they remain in a patient’s room, the responses from the survey are alarming.

In terms of controlling the spread of infection, hospitals really need to consider that almost anything in the facility could be contaminated. Hospital cleaning is becoming increasingly complicated, as there are so many places where harmful pathogens can be found. It will be increasingly important that healthcare facilities develop new protocols and policies to prevent HAIs.

Sources:

https://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/transmission-prevention/new-study-says-hospital-privacy-curtains-may-harbor-infectious-pathogens

https://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/transmission-prevention/hospital-privacy-curtains-and-bed-sheets-soft-surface-contamination-and