People who work at Regina’s hospitals aren’t washing their hands enough, according to the provincial auditor.
In her 2018 report, Judy Ferguson found the Saskatchewan Health Authority had good practices in place but staff were not always following them. She reported the hand-hygiene compliance rate of hospital staff in Regina was consistently below the target of 100 per cent.
Ferguson said hand washing is one of the best ways hospital workers and even visitors can do to prevent and reduce the spread of hospital-acquired infections. Infections can extend a patient’s hospital stay while leading to more complications and added costs.
The hand-hygiene compliance rates of the Regina General and Pasqua hospitals have remained below the 100 per cent target for the past three years. They both averaged between 80 and 87 per cent over that time.
The auditor also compared a series of blind audits, where the employee was not aware they were being watched, and direct observation.
Compliance rates for the blind audits were much lower than direct observation, by about 60 to 70 per cent in some units. The auditor explained this difference suggests the actual compliance rate for hand hygiene is significantly lower than reported.
Managers in patient-care units are expected to post monthly hand-hygiene compliance rates on the wall to remind staff to wash their hands. Four of the 15 units observed by the auditor did not post them. Staff in those units were only washing their hands 43 to 87 per cent of the time from April to June 2018.
Some patient-care units are worse than others. The auditor looked at the eight units with compliance rates below 90 per cent. Staff in half of those units washed their hands 65 per cent of the time, on average.
The auditor said the health authority should rethink its approach to monitoring hand washing to collect more accurate data. She also said providing staff with a periodic refresher training will serve as another reminder to the importance of hand hygiene to prevent the spread of hospital-acquired infections.