Hand-washing is definitely in the news.

Australian hospitals have signed up in a National Hand Hygiene Initiative that won a World Health Organization prize. The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care has set a handwashing benchmark that requires doctors and nurses to clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol rub on 70% of the occasions a patient is touched.

There is a big focus on getting doctors to wash their hands before each patient. Hospitals are running audits on the frequency with which doctors wash their hands and the results are being reported as a grade on the new MyHospitals website. Doctors failing to wash hands before touching a patient are one of the primary ways that infection is spread; and doctors especially have a long way to improve with many falling well below 60% of the time. Logan Hospital scored very poorly (doctors and nurses there washed their hands just 44% of the occasions they should have).

Do our doctors in this community always wash their hands between each patient? Maybe an audit/survey would be useful. Here are some possible questions:

What procedures do you have in place in this surgery for:
[li]hand-washing by medical staff?[/li]
[li]sterilising children’s toys?[/li]
[li]sterilising door handles and counter tops?[/li]
[li]sterilising pens handled by patients (Ex. signing Medicare forms)?[/li]
[li]changing linen (sheets pillowslips) on examination tables between patients?[/li]
[li]separating infectious patients from others in the waiting rooms?[/li]

The other people who are paying particular attention to hand-washing are the Olympic athletes. Infection is primarily transmitted by hand contact. They don’t want to get sick and be forced out of an event or have their performance destroyed by bugs passed around from hand to hand.

So Olympic athletes are making hand-hygeine optimal as their best defence at the Games paying attention to:
[li]shaking hands (avoid shaking hands)[/li]
[li]touching handrails and handles – shopping centres expose people to pathogens unlimited[/li]
[li]washing their hands with anti-bacterial liquid or foam[/li]
[li]educate family and friends to stay away if they are ill[/li]
[li]optimise their immune system’s resistance to bugs by eating a probiotic yoghurt[/li]

We could use these tips to reduce infection locally too. Where are the places we are most likely to be touching other people’s hands or surfaces others have touched? Gym equipment shopping trolley handlestrain handrails door handles car steering wheels keyboards playing cards shared sports gear money kettles counter surfaces shared pens cash dispensers…

How readily can we access facilities to thoroughly wash our hands? Is there an anti-bacterial fluid we can use?

Hands are the worst but washing up sponges are close behind. And if we are sneezing and coughing it would be a real help if we kept away from the public arena. Don’t spread our germs around. It doesn’t do anyone a favour. If we have to go out in public with a bug maybe we could wear a disposable face mask and wash our hands thoroughly and frequently and use disposable tissues rather than hankies.