Hospital Privacy Curtains: A Harbour for Infectious Agents

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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.


Hospital floors, yet another source of Hospital-Acquired Infections

The list of potential areas of contamination in hospitals seems to keep growing, leading us to identify more sources of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) and making hospital cleaning continuously more complicated. To add to this, researchers are now finding that hospital floors are a significant source of hospital-acquired infections. Every day, hospital and clinic floors are flooded by thousands of people. Shoes soles, wheels from equipment, such as monitors or stretchers and bodily fluids all contribute to the contamination of hospital floors.

It seems so obvious; floors are dirty in general. Hospital floors must be even dirtier. However, as Koganti, et. al. (2016) describes,

“… hospital floors are often heavily contaminated but are not considered an important source for pathogen dissemination because they are rarely touched. However, floors are frequently contacted by objects that are subsequently touched by hands (e.g., shoes, socks, slippers). In addition, it is not uncommon for high-touch objects such as call buttons and blood pressure cuffs to be in contact with the floor.”

(Koganti, et. al. (2016).

In addition to this, shoe soles and wheels on equipment also frequently touch hospital floors. Shoes of healthcare professionals can lead to the spread of infection since these workers are visiting many different patient rooms. Similarly, equipment such as monitors, stretchers or infusion pumps all have wheels which touch the floors of multiple hospital rooms.

Now you might be thinking, ‘but surely hospital floors are routinely cleaned?’ While that is true, researchers are now finding that much of the floor cleaning that is done is relatively ineffective since the bacteria is able to reproduce so quickly. So, what can be done to help reduce the risk of hospital floor contamination?

A good hygiene program for hospital floors, to reduce the risk of contamination

The cleaning and the disinfection of floors are essential elements of an effective hygiene program for hospitals. Regular floor maintenance implies the systematic elimination of hidden bacterias, which can be achieved by using vacuums, mopping and other elimination processes.

A good floor disinfection program consists of using effective disinfectants/detergents and procedures that are notable for reducing the risk of contamination. It is also important that cleaning equipment be properly cleaned and maintained, so that bacteria doesn’t spread when cleaning.

Cleaning hospital floors seems like a daunting task, especially since bacteria has been able to reproduce and spread itself so quickly. Healthcare facilities will need to become more exigent with their floor cleaning programs, if they are going to seriously tackle the threat of hospital-acquired infections.

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