Driving improvements in environmental hygiene

Associate Professor, Dr. Yew-Fong (Pamela) Lee and Dr. Thomas Oh examine the clinical evidence for the prevention of cross-contamination and spread of healthcare-associated infections, within the context of material compatibility between disinfectant wipes, surfaces and equipment.

Healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs) continue to pose a significant threat to patient safety, and the importance of hospital surroundings, together with healthcare environmental hygiene (HEH), should not be underestimated. A recent study concluded that ‘optimal HEH practices are an integral part of patient safety and a key component in improving infection prevention and control. Healthcare institutions may be able to lower their HCAI rates by improving HEH practices.’ 1

Any environmental surfaces or equipment may be contaminated by microorganisms and pose a risk of cross infection. Effective decontamination is essential and the use of clinical wipes is one of the most efficient and prevalent methods used in hospitals. While there is evidence to support the role of wipes in preventing cross-contamination and spread of HCAIs,2 material compatibility between wipes, surfaces and equipment is becoming of real concern. Detergent and disinfectant wipes can damage plastic surfaces of medical devices if they are not compatible with the surface material

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) issued an alert (MDA/2013/019) to this effect, warning of the potential damage caused to medical devices, if disinfectants are not compatible with the surface material.3 This followed a series of incident reports relating to clinical wipes that degraded surfaces of medical devices (MD). 

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