Control - a few words
posted: Wednesday September 24,
Today I had occasion to drive my wife into the
our district hospital for an X-ray and consultation. The whole procedure
was quick, efficient and impressive (discounting the waiting list
for the appointment). The staff were helpful and friendly.
The hospital was liberally plastered with notices
exhorting both staff and patients to wash their hands so, just for
now, let’s ignore the almost universal practice of allowing
staff and patients alike to shoulder their way into a toilet and
then, after exhorting them to wash their hands, forcing them to
use bacteria-laden knobs and handles to get out again…
The NHS goes to no little trouble and expense
to help prevent cross-infections so what I found in the excellent
and well-appointed League of Friends shop in the main foyer was
a bit of a bummer. Taking pride of place on the counter were several
piles of grubby used paperbacks for sale. I shudder to think how
many of these were purchased by unthinking visitors and then taken
given directly to in-patients who have little to do all day except
read, scratch themselves as they heal – whatever. It takes
little imagination to predict just how many infectious organisms
might inhabit such a book after several round trips between the
ward, the day-room and the League of Friends shop.
I’m not really apportioning blame here,
the League of Friends volunteers are not infection-control professionals
and quite possibly no-one on the infection-control staff uses the
The trouble is, not all the professionals are
that well informed either. I have unimpeachable knowledge of an
event concerning a known MRSA carrier, an in-patient in a small
mental health unit. Quite properly, an infection-control advisor
was called in to give a talk to the whole staff (about 15 in all)
on how to handle things. She gave her talk and asked for questions
- long silence from all the nursing staff and the unit manager etc.
Eventually the only question came from the office manager. "How
long can the MRSA organism live on... say a kitchen work-surface
for instance?". The answer? "No-one's ever asked me that
before, I don't know. Can I get back to you?"
Anyway, I digress. But I do think that second
hand books in constant circulation around an infection-prone environment
are a good example of how easily organisations can overlook glaring
breaches of vital protocols – and how naturally an outsider
notices these things. Crikey, here's another horrible thought -
what about all the old magazines in the reception areas and waiting
So, here's my plan... I will offer my services
as a well-paid and observant independent consultant on the ‘bleeding
obvious’. On second thoughts, maybe not such a good idea.
That’s a great story for another day.
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