Healthcare associated infections: A backgrounder

Source: Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), January 2009

Healthcare associated infections develop in a patient as a result of their exposure to healthcare facilities or procedures. They include methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), C. difficile and other infections caused by bacteria and viruses encountered in healthcare facilities.

Rising infection rates are causing unnecessary suffering and death and are taxing the healthcare system as well as patients and families.

Cleaning, laundry, and other support services are a vital element of infection prevention and control strategies. Pathogens such as C. difficile, VRE, MRSA, norovirus, influenza, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) associated coronavirus can survive in the healthcare environment for extended periods of time, even months. In fact, these infections are inherently well adapted to survive in dust and on floors, bedrails, telephones, call buttons, curtains and other surfaces. Washing hands is important, but if bacteria and viruses are not eliminated from the environment, hands will quickly become contaminated again.

“Breaking the chain of infection” requires well-resourced, well-trained, and stable inhouse healthcare teams attacking all of the links of transmission; sufficient beds, equipment and staff to achieve best practice occupancy rates; modern high-quality infrastructure and equipment, and; standardized procedures, monitoring and public reporting.

Leave a Reply