Although good sanitary practices include simple hand-washing, health professionals are calling for improved sanitation practices to reduce the burden of diseases spread by medical workers through dirty hands.
The call was made, yesterday, during a workshop at King Faisal Hospital, Kigali, organised to mark Global Hand Hygiene Day under the theme, “Hand Hygiene supports surgical care.”
Dr Emile Rwamasirabo, the chief executive of King Faisal Hospital, Kigali, said most hospital-acquired infections result from contaminated hands of health workers and systematic approaches are needed to reduce contamination, especially during surgery.
“Infections are passed on to patients through hands and when they are acquired in the hospital they are obviously from the hands of the health care personnel. If there is systematic and effective hand washing procedure over 50 per cent of hospital-acquired infections can be prevented,” he said.
Dr Rwamasirabo warned that some of the hospital-acquired infections become resistant because of prior exposure to antibiotics and, as such, are difficult to treat.
“Some of these infections are highly resistant and poor hygiene worsens matters. For instance, if dysentery caused by salmonella is disseminated into the water systems, exposing many people to infection and treatment worsens if the strain is resistant,” he added.
Judith Kyengo, a nurse at ICU unit and infection chairperson, said infections that develop 48 hours after transferring patients are mostly acquired through poor hand hygiene of the healthcare professionals.
“Hands are the most vehicles of transmitting infections. We touch patients with hands and we have to touch the services too then back to the patients. That way you keep transmitting the microbes. If you go to another department without washing your hands it means that those germs will move all over the hospital,” said Kyengo.
Louise Ingabire, a nurse from Masaka District Hospital, also observed that without a clean body, hands of health workers remain laden with microorganisms.
“From shoes to clothes hands touch everywhere and if they pick germs from those places they will only contaminate the patient,” said Ingabire.
Meanwhile, Dr Tharcice Ngambe, a paediatrician at King Faisal Hospital, Kigali, said paediatric departments need to observe even higher hygiene standards to avoid contaminating infants.
“Because young people depend on other people’s help for feeding and other things, it means once the dirty hands are used, they will pose a threat to the babies,” said Dr Ngambe.
He cited viral infections such as flue and upper respiratory diseases as common infections from poor hand hygiene.