Late Breaking News
MRSA Prevention Initiatives Named a Priority at Military Healthcare Facilities
WASHINGTON, DC—Preventing MRSA in healthcare settings is a job for everyone. At Wilford Hall Medical Center (WHMC), hospital officials are working to educate all hospital personnel on preventing healthcare-associated infections such as those caused by MRSA. “We have an infection control department and in terms of preventing healthcare associated infections due to methicillin-resistant Staph aureus, really the first step is prevention of healthcare associated infections in general,” said Air Force Major Heather Yun, medical director for infection control at SAMMC.
Hand hygiene is an important element of preventing healthcare-associated infections. The primary mode of transmission of MRSA in healthcare settings is through human hands, according to the CDC. Transmission can occur when a healthcare worker’s hands become contaminated from touching a patient who either has a MRSA infection, or is carrying the bacteria on their body with no symptoms, a condition known as being colonized. If hand hygiene, such as washing with soap or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, is not performed, the healthcare worker can spread the bacteria to other patients.
In recent years, the ongoing campaign to make sure that all hospital personnel at WHMC adhere to proper hand hygiene has escalated, Dr Yun explained. “The number one activity that has been demonstrated to reduce healthcare associated infections is hand hygiene and this is one of our major foci,” Dr Yun said. “We have a very active, ongoing hand hygiene campaign that is educating providers and patients, and has been very successful over the last several years at increasing our rates of hand hygiene adherence.”
The campaign strives to communicate that proper hand hygiene protocols must be followed at all times. “The message is that this needs to be a 100 %-time issue. If a provider goes in to see a patient, if a provider leaves a patient’s room, then hand hygiene needs to take place,” Dr Yun said.
Doctor Yun said that WHMC has made efforts to ensure that alcohol-based hand rub is readily available as a way of encouraging hospital personnel to wash their hands. “This has been demonstrated to be preferable to healthcare workers, and also quicker and more convenient, so that people will go ahead and effectively decolonize their hands,” Dr Yun said. “We have been active in increasing the availability of alcohol-based hand rub throughout the facility, and also providing bottles for people to take around with them wherever they go.”
As part of the facility’s efforts to bolster hand hygiene, WHMC also uses educational materials with patients to encourage them to ask their providers whether they have washed their hands. “We have been providing all sorts of educational materials throughout the hospital in terms of brochures and posters, and encouraging patients to ask their providers whether they have washed their hands,” Dr Yun said. “Patients can feel empowered to make sure this happens. If they don’t see this happening, then they need to speak up and make sure that they protect their health in that way.”
Preventing MRSA Infections
In addition to making sure that hands are clean, it is important that hospital areas and equipment are also kept clean in order prevent MRSA transmission, according to Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Mary Anne Yip, NC, the chief consultant for infection control for the Air Force Surgeon General.
“MRSA bugs can sit for a number of weeks on a countertop waiting to be picked up. We are also very careful about how we reprocess our reusable equipment; all of that helps to prevent the transmission of this bug,” she said.
Doctor Yun also pointed out that following the guidelines provided by CDC and HICPAC (Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee) about contact precautions and managing multi-drug resistant organisms will be key to the prevention and control of MRSA infections. “Establishing and executing recommended transmission-based precautions for people with MRSA infections will be critically important,” asserted Dr Yun.
Air Force facilities are also participating in the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network, which is an internet-based surveillance system. Through the system, CDC is able to collect data on adverse events affecting patients and healthcare personnel at facilities throughout the US Participating healthcare facilities can compare their rates of health-care associated infections with national performance measures. The system will serve as another tool that Air Force facilities can use to conduct surveillance of healthcare-associated infections.