As I was sitting down to eat supper and watch the evening news on Monday night, I was shocked twice.
The first time at hearing that hand washing rates among health-care professionals is down from 53 per cent to 51 per cent.
The second shocker came moments later, when Eastern Health CEO Vickie Kaminski said that patients have the right to ask health-care professionals (nurses, doctors, technicians) if they have washed their hands before these people take care of them.
It’s a good thing I have a PVR because I had to rewind and make sure I heard her correctly.
It is common knowledge that people need to wash their hands.
Hand washing helps reduce the spread of germs that cause colds, flus, and other disgusting things no one wants to catch — 10-year-olds know this, but apparently at Eastern Health, only 51 per cent of people got the message.
No one likes getting sick.
Flus and colds keep us home from school and work and away from our regular activities.
Being sick takes away our energy and is generally not a good feeling. Additionally, sometimes it goes beyond the seasonal flu or the common cold.
Last week, three patients contracted the C. difficile infection and later died. Eastern Health still does not know if these patients contracted the infection from within the hospital or if they all came in with it individually. Tests have been sent to Winnipeg to be further scrutinized. It is also believed that each of the three patients would have succumbed to their other illnesses even without the C. difficile bacteria. Still, it would be better if we could avoid contracting it.
When it all comes down to it, I think I can speak for most people when I say we would like to avoid spreading germs whether those germs are typical like the common cold or deadly like the C. difficile bacteria.
To combat the spread of germs, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety says we have to wash our hands well and we have to wash them often.
For a health-care professional, this means before and after every patient.
It means using hot water and lots of soap.
It means scrubbing our hands together until we sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
This might sound like an inconvenience but when it comes to the health of society, it is worth every second.
One hundred per cent of people working in hospitals should be doing this.
Fifty-one per cent might be a pass in some realms of life, but when you’re a health-care worker, it is a massive fail.
Getting back to shocker No. 2 — when I go to a hospital or other medical related clinic, I am the patient.
I am there because I require medical attention.
This could be anything from having blood work done to receiving cancer treatment.
Regardless of my reasons for being there, I am likely under stress and would like to have my health treated in a responsible way. This includes being treated by kind, knowledgeable and clean health-care professionals. Ms. Kaminski says I should ask the health-care professional if they have washed their hands.
Would I ask a cook in a restaurant if he washed his hands before he made my hamburger? No, I wouldn’t. Why? Because it’s not my job to see if you’ve washed your hands — it’s yours.
So do it.
M.A. Clements writes from St. John’s.