Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

Canadian Patients Need to Wash Their Hands


The Canadian Patient Safety Institute (CPSI) celebrated its third annual STOP! Clean Your Hands Day on May 6, 2013. On this day, public hospitals across the country encourage their health care providers to wash their hands to reduce the spread of hospital-acquired infections. I would have thought that health care professionals working in hospitals know when and how to wash their hands. The CPSI website states, “Although hand hygiene seems simple, it is a complex cultural change to establish. But it does have the potential to become the cornerstone of a safe, high-quality healthcare system. Preventing harm is worth the effort.” They have spent years developing tools to assist public hospitals with this so-called complex cultural change. Check out the clean your hands crossword and word search games that can be printed off and distributed to health care providers. There’s also a certificate of achievement for rewarding good hand washing behaviour.

Since 2003 the CPSI has spent nearly $100 million taxpayer dollars in the name of improving patient safety and quality in the Canadian health care system. According to their 2012 financial statements they received $8 million taxpayer dollars last year. Half of the money was spent on operations including salaries, wages, benefits, travel, meetings, and board members.

As a taxpaying patient, I don’t think I’m getting very good value for my money. In fact, things seem to be getting worse in the patient safety arena despite pouring all this money into the CPSI. Last year CBC’s Marketplace, a consumer watchdog show, set out to examine why “Canada has the highest rate of hospital acquired infections in the developed world…” Its episode on dirty hospitals reveals some of the cost-cutting measures taken by the CEO’s of public hospitals in order to meet targets for their pay bonuses.

What if you don’t want to receive medical care in a dirty public hospital? What if you don’t want to go to a hospital where the staff are not washing their hands? A government monopoly on health care leaves Canadian patients with no other choice. As taxpaying patients we must rally for change.

Let’s start by washing our hands of the Canadian Patient Safety Institute





One Response to “Canadian Patients Need to Wash Their Hands”
  1. Debbie says:

    Some thoughts … spending alot of time in hospital with my son, I have taughthim to ask his healthcare providers if they have washed their hands and he routinely does! It saddens me that such a fundamental step in the care of patients cannot be something we can relpy on. My observation is it really is about the state of consciousness of the healthcare provider. Are they rushing through their shift routinely throwing on gloves for every task without demonstrating the understanding that although their hands are protected the gloves now become a transmitter of germs. The scariest thing to me is to see healthcare providers rushing around with gloves – yikes I can’t help but think where have those gloves been. Or are they critically thinking about the tasks ahead of them, identifying when a glove is needed then discarding it? Are they cleaning their hands everytime a break in cleanliness has been made before moving to the next task? Once again from my observation those that display this critical thought are also the ones that show outstanding abilities in other parts of their practice and their overall attention to sterilty and cleanliness throughtout their day is stellar. But as patients we see varying degrees along the spectrum and it is terrifying to know that all it takes is one neglectful person to cause an enormous spread of bacteria. Terrifying!

    I believe this is something leadership needs to take more seriously. Sure they talk about this issue – sometimes there are even silly contests or challenges. Specialists in infection control are called in to provide education but all this is not working. On the ward, often very busy … I find healthcare providers have either adopted clean hands as vital or they haven’t. It is time for leaders to become more involved in bedside care where they will easily and quickly see what is truly happen and let it be known that a breech in this fundamental task is serious and has serious consequences. I believe if leaders walked the talk we would see a systemic change and healthcare providers would be empowered to hold each other accountable.

    How ironic that we can spend thousands of dollars on expensive procedures and medicines but yet this inexpensive basic task continues to be neglected costing the healtcare system an enormous amount of money.

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