Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 22 May 2019

Investment in infection control can save lives

Hospitals must invest money and effort to develop infection prevention and control programmes
Infection control is essential in hospitals.  Sarah Dea / The National
Infection control is essential in hospitals. Sarah Dea / The National

Despite the widely held assumption that prevention is better than cure, many health care facilities don’t invest enough money, resources and effort into prevention and control programmes. As The National reports today, experts say that health care managers are reluctant to spend cash to develop such measures because they don’t receive direct revenue from this investment – even though patients who acquire infections in hospitals may end up staying for longer.

This is despite the fact that sometimes even the introduction of simple measures can help greatly in controlling infection rates of Mers and other diseases.

The so-called hospital “superbug” MRSA, for instance, is resistant to a number of antibiotics and is able to survive for long periods on common surfaces such as door handles, floors, sinks and taps.

The particular circumstances of a hospital environment – with large numbers of staff tending to large numbers of immune system-weakened patients – provides fertile ground for MRSA to exploit.

And yet, a series of steps taken by staff and visitors – involving the provision of hand wipes or sanitiser units, stringent hand washing by staff before and after contact with a patient and greater focus on cleaning of surfaces – are shown to help reduce MRSA infection rates. Terminal cleaning, or the use of strong agents to rid it of germs, is also proven to be effective in this regard. But it really is the small step of improving basic hygiene provision that is most important in getting patients better, keeping them away from further infection and moving them out of hospitals.

Some within the profession point to medicine’s greatest achievement as the root cause for all of this: namely, an overreliance on antibiotics by both patients and practitioners. Most patients expect to be prescribed a medicine when they see a GP, even for something as simple as a common cold. But the consequence of this is increased resistance to antibiotics.

The most bleak assessment of this culture is that prescription drugs may be unable to effectively treat infection within decades, returning us to an age when a small cut or abrasion could become life-threatening.

If we are to avoid this dark prediction, investment is required. Hospitals need to back prevention programmes and the general public needs to understand that antibiotics are not the only way to control illness.

Updated: September 17, 2014 04:00 AM