Health region targets hand washing

By Ben Ingram
A recent audit of Prairie North Health Region showed healthcare workers met hand-washing standards 66 per cent of the time, with at least one facility scoring as low as eight per cent.

The results of the April study were released this month along with the health region’s annual report. They document an increase from a November audit that averaged 31 per cent.

In order to obtain the results, auditors visit the region’s facilities and observe the practices of healthcare staff, including housekeepers, doctors, nurses and lab technicians.

With regards to hand hygiene, PNHR wants to see a 95 per cent rate of compliance. Situations demanding hand washing are broken down into four moments — before and after tending to a patient, before using sterilized equipment on a person and anytime after a risk of being exposed to bodily fluids.

“They do a rub, which is hand gel with alcohol in it, or they’ll do the wash, or it’ll be a miss,” said Monica Yonan, the patient quality of care coordinator tasked with overseeing hand hygiene auditors. “We get our statistics (from) that.”

Yonan took over the team last September. The initial goal was to educate healthcare workers using an online quiz system, but few employees found the extra time to take the tests.

The role of the auditors has thus expanded from observation to include an educational mandate as well. Audits are now carried out on a monthly basis in every facility, Yonan said.

April’s observations revealed a range of compliance rates, from eight per cent to 100 per cent.

“We have gone into that facility and talked to the manager and had in-services with the staff,” Yonan said of the lowest score during April’s audits. “Upon follow-up…we found that they were actually at around 80 per cent.”

Some of the largest barriers to achieving the levels of hand hygiene PNHR is seeking are availability of the alcohol gel and staff attitudes towards using it, Yonan offered, saying healthcare workers sometimes complain of the gels burning.

Beyond that, she said the biggest concern of the auditors is a staff attitude toward gloves. While working with patients, it has been found that staff are prone to assume hand washing is not a necessity if gloves are worn and thrown away. Auditors want to see hand washing before and after the gloves go on.

“Things have really changed, there’s a lot of work to be done but it’s coming. The attitudes are really good now,” Yonan said.


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