Safety in the Healthcare Facility: Controlling Cross-Contamination

Healthcare facilities are a place where people are at risk of being exposed to multiple biological, chemical and physical agents. These places see numerous patients daily, and this means germs enter the building, contaminate surfaces and spread.

Failure to control contamination increases the risk of illnesses among patients. Patients who are already sick are vulnerable to pathogens that can worsen their condition. Hospital and clinic staff exposed to pathogens are also at risk. As well as increased sickness leading to absenteeism and decreased productivity, staff morale suffers. 

For these reasons, healthcare facilities have infection control protocols in place to lessen the threat of cross-contamination.

Sources of cross-contamination

Recognising the sources of contamination is the first step towards control and elimination. Bacteria and viruses are transmitted through air, surface contact and water. The hands and gloves of health workers carry pathogens after coming into contact with patients and infected objects. Cross-contamination occurs in the operating room if surgical instruments, crash cards and procedure trays are not properly sterilised. Infectious diseases are transmitted through touch, sneezing and coughing.

Outside the surgery, sources of contamination come from a variety of sources. Failure by the kitchen staff to observe hygiene protocols, from hairnets to food handling, can cause foodborne illnesses. The hospital toilets are another obvious hazard that requires regular disinfection. Soft surfaces such as cloth seat cushions, carpets and patient beds also harbour bacteria and viruses that are transmittable to anyone coming into contact.

Reducing the risk of cross-contamination

Germs and viruses are unavoidable, but healthcare facilities must control them to prevent illnesses from spreading and worsening. Here are three tips to help prevent cross-contamination:

Clean, sterilise and disinfect

Staff require training on how to properly clean, sterilise and disinfect medical instruments and hospital facilities. They must also have the right cleaning supplies to do the job correctly. To reduce the risk of airborne infection in the operating theatre, a compressed air piping system provides a clean and dry air supply with a high level of reliability. Follow the minimum standards set by the World Health Organization for hospital hygiene and infection control, and adjust the procedure based on the needs of your healthcare facility.

Schedule routine environmental cleaning

Have a regular cleaning routine to restrict the spread of viruses and bacteria. Items and surfaces used more often need more frequent cleaning. These high-touch surface areas include door handles, toilets and taps, telephones and elevator buttons.

Encourage proper hygiene among staff

Proper hygiene is the simplest but most important factor in preventing cross-contamination in a healthcare facility. Staff members have to observe proper handwashing procedures at the appropriate times: before eating, before and after coming into contact with a patient and after using the toilet.

Controlling germs is crucial in healthcare facilities, as cross-contamination puts staff and patients at increased risk, complicates treatments and increases the chance of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Knowing potential sources of contamination and taking proactive steps reduces the danger to health, the threat to the reputation of the health facility and problems with understaffing.

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