Hand hygiene, simplest way to avoid infection: expert

By Ma. Teresa Montemayor

July 21, 2023, 8:35 pm

<p>Department of Health-National Infection Prevention and Control Program manager Dr. Charmaine Louise Lozada <em>(screengrab from Zoom)</em></p>

Department of Health-National Infection Prevention and Control Program manager Dr. Charmaine Louise Lozada (screengrab from Zoom)

MANILA – Healthcare workers and patients in hospitals are prone to infections and they can be best protected by basic hand hygiene.

In a media Kapihan forum on Friday, National Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) Program manager Dr. Charmaine Louise Lozada said basic hand hygiene involves hand washing using soap and clean water.

"Kung hindi available ang soap and water, puwede naman po gumamit ng (If soap and water are not available, you can use) hand sanitizer or alcohol-based hand rub as long as the hands are not visibly soiled," she said.

There are five hand hygiene moments for healthcare workers, she added. These must be observed before touching a patient, before a clean or aseptic procedure, after body fluid exposure risk, after touching a patient, and after touching patient surroundings.

Lozada disclosed that patients may acquire infections, which are not present at the time of their admission, during the process of care in a hospital or other healthcare facility.

These include catheter-associated urinary tract infections, central line-associated bloodstream infections, surgical site infections, and pneumonia.

She said standard precautions must be practiced by the healthcare workers.

As for the proper and effective management of medical waste, Lozada said health facilities are instructed to appropriately label bins to allow for health care waste segregation and protection of patients and health care workers.

"One of the key components of health care waste management in health facilities is the waste audit," she said.

"So, it's an activity the health facilities conduct supervised by the regional offices and the central office to validate the proper segregation of waste, safe handling, treatment and disposal based on the waste types and hazard levels."

National IPC program

The IPC program is managed by the Health Facility Development Bureau of the Department of Health in line with the vision of institutionalization of infection prevention and control in every health facility by 2028.

It is tasked to develop health facility plans, policies, programs, projects and strategies related to health facility development, planning, operation, and maintenance and provides coordination, technical assistance, capacity building, and consultation and advisory services.

The IPC program is also delegated to lead health facilities in preventing patients and health workers from being harmed by avoidable infections, through policy development, capacity building and collaborative initiatives.

It is guided by technical experts and evidence-based strategies, working towards addressing the burden of Healthcare Associated Infections (HAI) and Antimicrobial Resistance, and achieving Universal Health Care in the Philippines.

Lozada said the program has crafted at least 36 IPC-related policies to help the facilities respond to the needs at the frontlines all throughout the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic while being involved in the monitoring of clustering in health facilities as part of the strategies to mitigate infections among healthcare workers through the conduct of root cause analysis and provision of technical assistance.

In 2021, the Health Facility Profiling System was established in line with Administrative Order 2021-0032, the implementation of the Philippine Health Facility Development Plan.

The system enabled the identification of gaps in health facilities toward the system-wide strengthening of health facility networks.

In 2022, the strategic plan for 2023 to 2028 was drafted by the health facility bureau together with key stakeholders including professional IPC societies, World Health Organization Western Pacific Regional Office and World Health Organization Philippines, Epidemiology Bureau for HAI Surveillance, National Antimicrobial Stewardship Program, Office for Health Laboratories, Infectious Disease Specialty Hospitals, and IPC Unit staff.

Under Proclamation No. 971 series of 2020, the second week of July every year is declared as National Infection Prevention and Control week and the second Saturday of July every year as Surgical Infection Prevention Day. (PNA)