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Tom Sharon
Washing hands, antibacterial gel, new pair of gloves


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Cleanliness First

Humans are natural vectors. A vector is an organism that carries disease-causing microorganisms from one person to another or from a contaminated area to a clean area or non-infected person. In that context, health care personnel who, out of carelessness, fail to take reasonable precautions are behaving like mosquitoes and flies.
 
Therefore, the standard approach to curtailing the spread of infection must focus on the behavior of health care professionals and allied staff. In fact, reducing the contagion in hospitals is so dependent on human behavior that most states require all hospitals to include infection control in their employee orientation and continuing education programs. Moreover, every hospital must have an infection control plan in order to qualify for ]CAHO accreditation and to conform to public health codes. What is missing with all of this fanfare is that no one has bothered to let you in on the deal. I have not heard of an infection control class for patients and their family members.

You see, no supervisor can follow staff members around to make sure they wash their hands after each patient contact. So it's a very good idea for you to enforce the hospital policy by telling the nurse, doctor, or therapist, "I didn't see you wash your hands. For my peace of mind, would you mind doing it at the sink here in my room?" If you get any response other than total compliance, reply with, "I am sorry, because of the high rate of hospital-acquired infections, I cannot let you touch me (or my child, if in a mother-baby or pediatric unit) unless I see you wash your hands or apply antibacterial gel and put on a new pair gloves." If you don't get the desired response, your next comment should be, "I would like to speak with your supervisor about your refusal to wash your hands prior to patient contact."

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