Hand-washing has long been recognized as a low-tech but effective way to reduce the scourge of infection in health-care facilities, but compliance is patchy. Canada will soon have a sharper tool for prodding health-care personnel to wash their hands between patients.
Beginning in January Accreditation Canada will compel virtually all acute-care hospitals – in addition to nursing homes and other facilities seeking its stamp of approval – to conduct hand-hygiene audits and have a plan to maintain or improve hand-washing compliance. The facilities will be expected to act when the rules aren’t followed. Previously known as the Canadian Council on Health Services Accreditation, the organization announced the new rules in May.
Although accreditation is a voluntary process, 99 per cent of Canada’s acute-care hospitals participate in Accreditation Canada. The organization also accredits many nursing homes, some community health centers, home-care organizations and other health-care facilities.
According to Canada’s Globe and Mail Newspaper, one of several publications that reported the new requirement, not even hospital volunteers will be exempt. The volunteers and hospital staff will be trained to wash their hands properly and to know when it is required.
Typically, auditing involves sending hand-hygiene workers to discreetly monitor compliance.
Experts say half of all infections could be prevented through proper hand hygiene, yet studies show less than half of hospital nurses and physicians clean their hands between patients.
An estimated 220,000 people develop hospital-acquired infections in Canada each year. According to Health Canada, these infections kill some 8,000 to 12,000 patients across the country every year, and cost the health system millions of dollars. The Globe and Mail points out that this is roughly the same number as those who die from car accidents and breast cancer combined.
Pamela Fralick, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Healthcare Association, predicted in the Globe and Mail article that most health-care facilities would embrace the new requirement, as the benefits far outweigh costs. “This is an era of accountability and patient safety,” she said. “The two go hand in hand.”
Source: Globe and Mail; Accreditation Canada; Health Canada