Hospitals get tough on germs

Disinfecting the hands reduces the transmission of germs (SF) SFDRS

More than 100 hospitals and clinics across Switzerland are taking part in the Swiss Hand Hygiene Campaign, launched by the Federal Health Office on Thursday.

This content was published on January 26, 2006

The campaign is aimed at stamping out infections, which affect around 70,000 Swiss hospital patients every year and generate health costs of SFr230 million ($182 million).

The launch of the initiative was timed to coincide with the second annual national day of hand hygiene.

Last year more than 100 Swiss hospitals collected data on the frequency of hand washing among medical personnel. Their findings showed that hospital workers were not complying with regulations stating they should wash their hands after every contact with a patient.

These hospitals have now made a commitment to try to raise standards of hygiene.

Frequent hand washing reduces the spread of colds, flu, and other viruses. Experts say good hand hygiene is particularly important in the winter months.

"In the event of a pandemic, hand washing plays a central role in preventing viruses from being passed on," according to Werner Wunderli, the head of the Swiss national influenza centre.

Up to 2,000 deaths

A health office news release said between two and 14 per cent of Swiss hospital patients fall prey to bugs of differing degrees of severity. Between 1,000 and 2,000 people die annually of these infections.

Patients in big hospitals are twice as likely to be affected as those being treated in small clinics.

Hugo Sax of Geneva University Hospital's department for the prevention and control of infections explained to swissinfo that the bigger hospitals had more patients in poor health than the smaller ones.

"In the big hospitals [with more sophisticated equipment]... more invasive therapies are carried out, and patients are more likely to be prone to infection there."

The campaign was initiated by the health office and Swiss-NOSO – a working group of specialists from the major hospitals.

Brochures will be distributed to medical staff informing them of the best hand-washing practice. Posters in the workplace will serve as a reminder.

In addition, participating hospitals will ensure that staff have easy access to disinfecting liquid.

The Swiss Hand Hygiene Campaign comes hard on the heels of a World Health Organization patient safety initiative, which began in October.

The WHO Global Patient Safety Challenge is based on a model developed by Geneva University Hospital.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

In Switzerland around 70,000 hospital patients contract infections every year.
This is 2-14% of all hospital patients.
In 1,000-2,000 cases these infections prove fatal.
Dealing with the consequences of these illnesses incurs annual health costs of SFr230 million ($182 million).

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