Several kinds of germs (usually bacteria, and occasionally viruses or fungi) are responsible for causing infections associated with health care, either in hospital or in other health care settings. These are known as healthcare associated infections.
When you go to hospital, healthcare workers may need to use a variety of medical equipment, for example drips and urine drain tubes, to help save your life or improve your health. Regrettably, these same things can also become contaminated with germs and may become the source of an infection, especially if your immune system is poor. Although every effort is made to maintain a germ-free environment when using these items, infections do still sometimes occur.
Why are infections transmitted in healthcare facilities?
- Hospitals are full of sick people who bring with them a variety of infections.
- Hospital patients do not always have strong immune systems. Their bodies are hard at work trying to recover from an illness, injury, or surgery. And when the immune system is not in top condition, your body’s defenses are down and it’s easy for a new bug to invade.
- Although hospital staff are aware of the need to wash or disinfect their hands before and after caring for patients, this sometimes gets forgotten in a busy ward environment.
You can take many steps to steer clear of infections. Being aware of your rights as a patient/consumer and following a few practical tips will go a long way toward ensuring you don’t leave a healthcare facility sicker than when you arrived.
1. Wash Up
Do your duty by washing your hands or at least using a hand alcohol gel that doesn’t require water every time you use the bathroom. Don’t handle anything that might be a germ carrier such as used tissues or cloth hankies.
Read more at Hand Hygiene Australia
2. Ask Away
Don’t be afraid to ask your healthcare worker e.g. nurse or doctor if they have washed their hands.
Read more at Patient Opinion
3. Watch that wound
Be sure to keep the dressing around a wound dry and clean. Let a nurse know immediately if it gets wet or begins to fall off.
4. Care for that catheter
Treat your catheter site as a wound dressing and keep it clean and dry. If the dressing comes loose or if the drainage tube becomes dislodged, tell your nurse.
5. Be part of the team
Be sure everyone involved in your care knows of any potential medical conditions, such as diabetes, that may affect your healing.
6. Know and follow the rules
Follow what your doctor, nurse or infection control practitioner has told you and ask questions if you are unsure about anything he or she has told you to do or not do.
7. Be sure well-wishers are well
Tell family or friends who are sick to send you a get-well card instead of dropping by for a visit.
8. Food Safety
Make sure that if anyone brings cooked food into hospital for you it comes in sealed containers that have been carried in an esky/cold bag and placed straight into the fridge. This could prevent you from getting food poisoning.
Read more at the Food Safety Information Council
9. Cough etiquette
Remember to cover a cough with your arm, not your hands, and put used tissues straight into the bin. Remember to wash your hands straight after.
Read more at Cough and Respiratory Etiquette
This is one of the most important things you can do to prevent spreading infections such as seasonal influenza. Remember flu can kill!
Read more at the Immunise Australia Program