Hand hygiene and vigilance against antibiotic resistance are two of the most important aspects of infection prevention and control in hospitals, and this is reflected in the theme of this year’s World Hand Hygiene Day: ‘Fight antibiotic resistance – it’s in your hands’, endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO). Netcare facilities across the country are participating in internal and public awareness campaigns to reinforce methods of preventing the spread of infections, and managing them appropriately.
“Hand hygiene is an integral part of infection prevention and control, and at Netcare we place such importance on this that we have incorporated hand hygiene into the Netcare Way – a set of behaviours that are part of our corporate ethos and expected from all at the Group. The pledge ‘I always practise proper hand hygiene to show my care’ has been wholeheartedly adopted by management and staff members throughout our Group,” says Dr Dena van den Bergh, Director: Quality Systems and Innovation at Netcare.
An internal campaign aimed at encouraging staff to become hand hygiene role models was launched last year. The campaign involved management and staff members across all divisions pledging support for Netcare’s hand hygiene programme and a competition giving staff members the opportunity to share why they regard hand hygiene as important to them personally.
“Netcare has also long been actively involved in promoting the responsible use of antibiotics and mitigating infection risks associated with antibiotic resistance. Such measures are needed in order to prevent a situation where the antibiotics currently available to treat illnesses are rendered ineffective through misuse.”
Hand hygiene in the healthcare setting
Last year Netcare launched a mobile application to monitor the ‘five moments for hand hygiene’ in order to measure hospital staff members’ level of compliance. The WHO campaign highlights five crucial moments for hand disinfection: (1) before touching a patient, (2) before a clean/aseptic procedure, (3) after body fluid exposure or risk of exposure, (4) after touching a patient, and (5) after touching a patient’s surroundings.
“The mobile app has proved to be an excellent means of monitoring the extent to which our staff members practise hand hygiene in our hospitals, particularly as it automatically generates a data dashboard of hand hygiene compliance. This allows management to know, in real time, the level of compliance for their hospital overall, as well as for each ward and each category of staff. We are thus able to use this data to provide feedback to frontline staff, identify any potential areas of concern timeously and address these accordingly. Our hand hygiene mobile app keeps hand disinfection top of mind as a high-priority measurable.
“We are working hard to improve our record further through collaboration with international experts in this field, to ensure we follow best practice in hand disinfection techniques in our hospitals,” Dr Van den Bergh adds.
Netcare hospitals have pledged support for hand hygiene through signing up to participate in the WHO’s ‘Save Lives: Clean your Hands’ initiatives, another expression of Netcare’s commitment to patient safety and an opportunity to raise awareness about infection prevention and control among the wider public.
“Over the last seven years, Netcare has implemented comprehensive and collaborative antibiotic stewardship programmes in each hospital, taking a multidisciplinary approach to combating inappropriate use of antibiotics,” says Angeliki Messina, Netcare’s project manager for antibiotic stewardship.
“Each Netcare hospital has a formal antibiotic stewardship committee in place, comprising doctors, nurses, infection prevention practitioners, microbiologists, pharmacists and management. The committees meet regularly to discuss ways of reducing the impact of antibiotic resistance and ensure that antibiotics are being used responsibly in the hospital setting.”
Multi-drug resistant (MDR) bacteria are germs that have developed resistance to at least three different antibiotics. These are particularly dangerous to individuals who have other underlying health problems or injuries, or are undergoing surgery, for example. Antibiotic stewardship ensures that the correct antibiotic is chosen and administered at the correct dose, duration and route of administration, ultimately to curtail the development of microbial resistance and decrease the spread of infections.
“Measures to reduce the incidence of antibiotic resistance and improve hand hygiene go hand-in-hand towards securing better health outcomes for patients. Hand disinfection prevents the spread of bacteria, thereby reducing the chance of infection, while careful and judicious use of antibiotics ensures that bacteria do not become resistant to the medicines we have to fight infections,” explains Messina.
How can the public help to prevent antibiotic resistance?
- Embrace a healthy lifestyle, through eating a balanced nutritious diet, getting enough exercise, and practising good hygiene. Through staying healthy, you can prevent many infectious bacterial illnesses and thereby avoid the need for antibiotics.
- Clean your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap in your home, office, school, gym and other places.
- If you do fall ill, do not demand antibiotics from your doctor. Antibiotics are generally not appropriate or effective for treating viral infections, such as flu or the common cold.
- If it is medically necessary to take antibiotics, then take them exactly as prescribed by the doctor or pharmacist. Take them continuously as directed – do not skip any doses.
- Do not ‘save’ antibiotics prescribed for one illness, to take them when you fall ill at a later date. Even if the illness seems the same, remember that many different infections may exhibit similar symptoms. This does not mean that the same antibiotic is appropriate for the treatment of illnesses with similar symptoms.
- Do not share your prescribed antibiotics with others – this can lead to misuse and fuel the development of antibiotic resistance. Remember that antibiotics are powerful drugs and can have negative side effects.
- Keep your vaccinations up to date.
- Talk to your family and friends about the importance of only taking antibiotics when necessary and appropriate.
- When visiting family or friends in hospital, ensure that you wash your hands appropriately with soap and water or available alcohol hand rub upon entering and exiting wards and the hospital.
“With greater general awareness of the importance of hand hygiene and the appropriate use of antibiotics, we can all contribute to a healthier future. While Netcare and its staff members continue to uphold these two priorities in our healthcare facilities, the general public have a meaningful role to play in keeping themselves healthy through hand cleansing and preserving the efficacy of antibiotics by using them responsibly,” Dr Van den Bergh concludes.
Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare
Contact : Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville or Pieter Rossouw
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
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