News / Calgary

Calgary health-care staff getting hand-washing practices right — half the time

Calgary surgeons, nurses, even hospital cafeteria workers are only washing their hands half as often as they should, but officials point out compliance rates are on the upswing.

Data provided by Alberta Health Services indicates local health-care worker hand-hygiene frequency has jumped to 50.6 per cent from 37.8 per cent since a provincewide strategy was developed in late 2011.

But the Foothills Medical Centre (44.9 per cent), Peter Lougheed Centre (50.8 per cent) and Rockyview General Hospital (45.1 per cent) all still lag behind the 2012 provincial average of 58.4 per cent.

"Across the board, we're not where we want to be, but we need to continue to make that push and continue to raise the awareness and send out those educational messages . . . at the end of the day, 100 per cent compliance is the goal," said Dr. Joseph Vayalumkal, a clinical assistant professor with the Alberta Children's Hospital.

His hospital has served as a prime example of the progress that can be made — hand hygiene rates jumped nearly 20 per cent year-over-year to 73.7 per cent.

"There's been a big push to make access to hand hygiene very easy," Vayalumkal said.

But critics like University of Alberta professor and emergency-room physician Dr. Louis Francescutti aren't satisfied. He believes health-care staff need to wake up and realize they're not only putting patents at risk but also potentially themselves.

"We can get to 100 per cent . . . most of it is ignorance," he said. "Nobody thinks they're going to get sick and nobody thinks they have germs on their hands."

Determining compliance

  • Hand-hygiene compliance is monitored through observational studies of staff working in all areas of hospitals.
  • Staff working in patient areas are expected to wash their hands at four distinct moments — before contact with a patient or their environment, before any aseptic procedure, after contact with the patient or their environment and, lastly, after exposure to blood or bodily fluids.

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