Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joy St. John (FP)??

Better infection prevention guidelines and practices are critical for reducing exposure to communicable diseases for both healthcare workers and patients.?? This was one of the key admonitions that came out of day-one of a five-day seminar hosted by the Infection Control Department of the Geriatric Hospital on Hand Hygiene and the Use of Personal Protective Equipment.

While addressing participants, at the start of the seminar, Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Joy St. John, noted that healthcare workers were confronted each day with the challenging task of doing their job safely.?? She said:?? "Today, the most common occupational risk faced by healthcare personnel is contact with blood and body fluids during routine patient care… Moreover, research has shown that staff members who know how to protect themselves… and consistently use these measures will also be more adequately prepared to protect their patients."

While pointing to the need for continuing education, the CMO noted that courses such as this would help to stem the spread of health care associated infections for example Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), which affected the Geriatric Hospital last year.?? The virus leads to mild, cold-like symptoms, but frequent hand washing is key in preventing its transmission.

Dr. St. John said she was pleased to report that there were no new cases since then.?? However, the transmission of healthcare associated pathogens most often occurs via the contaminated hands of health care workers.??

"Accordingly, hand hygiene, that is hand washing with soap and water or use of a waterless, alcohol-based hand rub, has long been considered one of the most important control measures for preventing health care associated infections," she noted.

With staff education and motivation being acknowledged by the World Health Organisation as a key strategy in a multi-dimensional approach to improved hand hygiene practices, the CMO urged staff to practise what they would learn over the duration of the course. She, however, cautioned that the use of gloves was an important adjunct to, but not a replacement for, proper hand hygiene practices.

"Gloves must be used properly.?? They can become contaminated during care and must be removed or changed when moving from a contaminated site to a clean site, even on the same patient.?? Gloved hands can also become contaminated due to a tiny puncture in the glove material or during glove removal; therefore, hand hygiene must be performed immediately after glove removal," she stressed.

Participants in the seminar, which runs until this Friday, include staff of the Psychiatric Hospital, the Elayne Scantlebury Centre, the Geriatric Hospital, and other District Hospitals.

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