The 2013 “On Hand Hygiene Day,” a global campaign was observed on May 5, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) asking patients and family members to join health workers to observe the event on the theme: “Save Lives: Clean Your Hands”.
The campaign has been running since 2009 under the WHO’s “Clean Care is Safer Care Programme”, which encourages and ensures that while working with patients, hand hygiene should be performed at five key moments.
The five key moments are before touching a patient; before cleaning and antiseptic procedures (inserting devices such as catheters); after contact with body fluids; after touching a patient; and after touching patient’s surroundings.
A statement signed by Fadéla Chaib, WHO Communications Officer, copied to the Ghana News Agency said preferably, using an alcohol-based rub or by hand washing with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty, was necessary.
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According to WHO, every year, hundreds of millions of patients around the world are affected by health care-associated infections.
These lead to significant physical and psychological suffering and sometimes the death of patients and financial losses for health systems.
It said more than half of those infections could be prevented if caregivers properly cleaned their hands at key moments in patient care.
“Health care-associated infections usually occur when germs are transferred by health-care providers’ hands touching the patient.
“The most common infections are urinary tract and surgical site infections, pneumonia and infections of the bloodstream,” the statement noted.
It said of every 100 hospitalised patients, at least seven in developed and 10 in developing countries would acquire a health care-associated infections.
It said among critically ill and vulnerable patients in intensive care units, that figure rises to around 30 per cent.
“Practising good hand hygiene during health care by using alcohol-based hand rubs or washing hands with soap and water if visibly dirty, reduces the risk of these infections.
“More than 15,700 health facilities with more than nine million health workers in 168 countries have registered their commitment to good hand hygiene as part of the day”.
It said generating public awareness and patient participation were key to enhancing opportunities for patient safety.
It added that many health facilities educated and encouraged patients and their families to participate in hand hygiene.
According to a new survey conducted by WHO and its collaborating centre on patient safety, the University of Geneva Hospital, patient participation was considered a useful strategy for improving hand hygiene and creating a positive patient safety climate in the facilities implementing it.
It said patients and their family members could participate by asking for information about any existing initiatives that involved patients at the health facility and ask health workers who were about to touch them to clean their hands, and thank them when they did.
It said on global hand washing day (May 5), WHO invites health facilities to take action on monitoring hand hygiene practices and provide feedback to health workers.
“These are essential elements of successful strategies to reduce health care-associated infections,” the statement said.