Hospital Acquired Infections (HAI) or nosocomial infections, are infections that patients contract during a hospital stay. Even though all patients are at risk for acquiring these infections, young children, the elderly, and patients who have low immune systems are at a greater risk. Good infection control measures are key in the prevention of HAIs.
It is important that healthcare professionals employ the right type of precautions for patients who already have infections at the time of admission. Differentiating between the types of infection control measures and when to use them, determines the success of the precaution. Standard precautions should be used on all patients. The most basic is proper hand hygiene. Next would be the use of the right personal protective equipment (e.g., gloves, gowns, masks), followed by safe injection practices. Another important precaution is proper handling of equipment or surfaces around infected patients. I know that using disposable equipments for patients is very expensive, especially in third world countries, considering the fact that there is poverty and facility gaps. This, however, can be compensated by using dedicated equipments and properly cleaning/disinfecting them afterwards. Isolation precautions are used to control the spread of infections from one person to another. Patients, healthcare workers, family and visitors are all protected by using this form of precaution. Isolation precautions include, but are not limited to, contact, droplet and airborne precautions. As healthcare professionals, it is our responsibility to put into effect the appropriate infection control measure, and to make sure that the staff, patients, family and visitors adhere to it.
There are limited resources in The Gambia, but that should not be an excuse for failing to protect patients from getting infections during hospital stays. Cohorting patients should only be done if patients are properly tested and results of the tests are analyzed and interpreted. Randomly putting patients together in the same room is a safety risk.
A lot of lives are lost due to hospital acquired infections. Infection control measures are not expensive but treating the infections once they are acquired is expensive. The most valuable principle in healthcare is that prevention is better than cure. A lot of lives can be saved by just adhering to the required infection control measures.
By Oumie Jatta