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Hospital floors may pose 'overlooked' infection control risk

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Hospital room floors may be an overlooked source of infection that staff need to be aware of, according to US researchers.

Because items in patient rooms and wards may touch the floor, pathogens on hospital floors can rapidly move to the hands and high-touch surfaces throughout a hospital room, they noted.

“Understanding gaps in infection prevention is critically important”

Linda Greene

The researchers took cultures from 318 floor sites from 159 patient rooms – two sites per room – in five hospitals.

They also tested hands – gloved and bare – as well as other high-touch surfaces such as clothing, call buttons, medical devices, linens, and medical supplies.

Floors in patient rooms were found to be often contaminated with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Vancomycin Resistant Eenterococci (VRE), and Clostridium difficile, with C. difficile being the most frequently recovered pathogen found.

Of 100 occupied rooms surveyed, 41% had one or more high-touch objects in contact with the floor. These included personal items, medical devices, and supplies, said the researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio.

MRSA, VRE, and C. difficile were recovered from 18%, 2 6%, and 3%, respectively, of bare or gloved hands that handled the items, said the study authors in the American Journal of Infection Control.

The study authors said: “Efforts to improve disinfection in the hospital environment usually focus on surfaces that are frequently touched by the hands of healthcare workers or patients.

Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology

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Linda Greene

“Although healthcare facility floors are often heavily contaminated, limited attention has been paid to disinfection of floors because they are not frequently touched,” they said.

“The results of our study suggest that floors in hospital rooms could be an underappreciated source for dissemination of pathogens and are an important area for additional research,” they added.

Linda Greene, president of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, and a registered nurse, said: “Understanding gaps in infection prevention is critically important for institutions seeking to improve the quality of care offered to patients.

“Even though most facilities believe they are taking the proper precautions, this study points out the importance of ensuring cleanliness of the hospital environment and the need for education of both staff and patients on this issue,” she said.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • karen Webb

    What about the IV stands, bedside lockers, bed table legs? The lack of proper decontamination units (the deacon programme was too "expensive" for Trusts trying to meet the Nicholson challenge and still make annual cost savings.
    There is no conveyor belt system to adequately decontaminate chairs, lockers, beds, tables, commodes between patients. I'd rather eat off the floor than a hospital chair any day!

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  • I spent yesterday trying to get an outpatient clinic room cleaned as we were expecting an immunocompromised patient and the floor clearly hadn't even been swept for some time. 24 hours later and it still hasn't been done, luckily for us the patient cancelled due to being unwell.

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