Sunday, July 13, 2014

Hand washing in hospitals - don't forget those visitors

Years ago, I went to the doctor with some nasty ailment - don't even remember what it was.  His first questions was : Have you been around any children?   I see this as a crucial question with implications for hospital infections.  We know that their teachers get all the childhood diseases again after being in the classroom for ages.

The old rules are out.   I was only allowed to see my grandfather in the hospital because he was dying.  A grownup held me, and I did not touch him.

Yesterday I looked up the visiting rules in some hospitals, and noticed a trend to assume kids will be allowed in, but may need an appointment. And kids of certain ages can visit without a parent. 
One article on visiting instructed visitors to use wipes on their hands before touching the patient. This article was probably not read by kids.  

Here' what I know about kids:

They will touch anything!  Then touch their face and nose repeatedly, then throw themselves into Mom's or Gran's arms and touch their faces, kiss their noses . . . you know that.

They have touched everything in the gift shop where we bought this stuff for the patient, and which we didn't wipe off.  They have touched the skateboard, or the bike handles.  Tiny ones will pick up anything.  Have you ever seen a visiting kid get a good scrubdown with wipes?

We can't always tell what the kid is incubating from his playground pals. And multiply the germs for people of any age who had to come by bus.

Here's my experience with hospitals:

They don't give you a wipe when you come in, (my grocery has a dispenser before you walk in,) and don't usually have a hand sanitizer dispenser in the hall (my library does.)

Hospital cleaning staff are often over-worked, under-equipped and under-paid.  Especially under-paid.  And tired. 

A nurse or aide who washes her hands on entering a room (which I haven't witnessed so far) will still be touching stuff other staff (including cleaning staff) have touched, like the gizmo that moves the patient back in the bed, like the like switches, like the bed rails. And touching what visitors have touched.

That Tylenol ad that said:  Just wash your hands should be on a marble plaque above every hospital entry.

Have you ever seen a nurse look at a visiting kid for signs of communicable disease before letting him into a patient area?   

/Why don't we hand people a wipe when they enter the hospital, even the Imaging area?  And why are we scared to tell people that the kid theyplan to bring in, must get wiped, and get a look-see by a nurse?    

People do what they do.  Wipes and sanitizers dispensers, and hallway sinks need to be OBVIOUS so visitors and staff can be seen if they don't use them.  And handing them out at the information desk is perfectly okay. Better to offend a visitor than my immune system.

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