March 27, 2020

Infection Prevention: Clean hands against the virus

With the COVID-19 pandemic, Northern Health’s Infection Prevention team is working overtime to keep the hospital clean and safe for both our patients and our staff.

Infection prevention is also a key part of the the COVID-19 Incident Management team meeting.

“We catch up every morning – twice in the morning and once in the afternoon to keep up to date with the definitions, criteria and information from the news and the community”, said Madelaine Flynn, Infection Prevention Manager.

The key role the team is playing is educating staff in infection prevention principles, PPE application and removal, hand hygiene, cough etiquette and providing support to staff at all levels and in all areas.

“The situation is changing every day. When the outbreak began most of the questions from staff were around what the virus looks like from a clinical perspective. Now, it has moved towards PPE application and general uncertainty around what is going to happen in the next couple of days and months,” she explained.

The message the infection prevention team has for our staff is that the hospital is doing everything we can to protect staff and patients during this time.

“We do infection prevention every day, 365 days a year. Usually we do a lot more surveillance, proactive work around creating education packages and making sure we are meeting our KPIs for surgical site infections. At the moment, it’s more about being out there and reassuring staff about how to best prepare for COVID-19. We are busy on an average day, but we are extra busy at the moment,” Madelaine said.

The team has dealt with major outbreaks before – such as SARS, MERS and Ebola. Those were world-wide pandemics, but not to the scale of this one.

“COVID-19 is now affecting all countries, while SARS and MERS were in certain pockets of the world. Though there wasn’t a volume of patients affected that we are now seeing with COVID-19, we are confident in our team and we have the knowledge and experience to best advise on the infection prevention practices,” Madelaine said.

In a high-stress environment, Madelaine recognises the importance of having a quiet moment to stop and reflect. She de-stresses by trying to get some fresh air, going to the rooftop and trying to breathe and meditate.

“It’s helping and making me stop and live in the moment, and just allows to reflect on what happened during the day and what tomorrow will look like,” she said.

If there is one thing staff need to know, Madelaine said that would be “hand hygiene – hand hygiene – hand hygiene!”

“We do hand hygiene since health care started, but this is just reiterated that if we are cleaning our hands, we are keeping everybody safe. Effective and consistent hand hygiene in line with the five moments of hand hygiene is critical with any infection,” she added.

“Make sure you do your hand hygiene, wear your PPE appropriately and even stop and take a second before you put your PPE on or take off and have a look at the process. Our priority is keeping you safe in this situation”.