Visitors to Health-Care Facilities are Vital Link in Prevention Chain

In Local

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Visitors to health-care facilities play a vital role in protecting patient safety and minimizing the spread of infection.

In light of new Norovirus cases at Northumberland Hills Hospital, the hospital has issued a bulletin sharing some visitor tips – originally published by the US-based Association for Professionals in Infection Control – with additional information specific to NHH. The list begins with the most effective means of reducing the spread of infection, both within the hospital and in the community.

Sanitize hands before and after visiting – A previous NHH press release noted that conventional sanitizers are not effective against the Norovirus, and recommended soap-and-water washing for a minimum of 15 seconds. This procedure is recommended before entering and after leaving the room of the person you are visiting to avoid bringing in and carrying out germs. Insist on this practice among staff as well. Practice hand-cleaning after sneezing, coughing, touching your eyes, nose or mouth, after using the restroom, and before and after eating and drinking. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or sleeve, and do not sit on patient beds or handle their equipment. Read and follow any instructions posted outside the patient’s room.

Refrain from visiting a patient if you are sick – Do not visit the hospital if you are sick or have had any symptoms of illness within the last three days. These include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever (or feeling feverish), uncontrolled cough or rash.

Check first before bringing in food, sending flowers or taking the kids – While these thoughtful actions do spread cheer, they may not be allowed – so check first. Outside food may be risky if a patient is on a special diet or has food sensitivities. Many facilities have rules pertaining to visits from children that you should be aware of. If young visitors are allow, don’t let them play on the floor or bed, and be sure they wash their hands both upon entering and leaving the room. Be sure that the children are free from symptoms of infection such as runny nose, sore throat, rash and cough.

Special precautions – If the person you are visiting is on Isolation Precautions, talk to the health-care team before entering the room to find out what steps are required, such as wearing a mask or other protective clothing.

Don’t add to the clutter – Less clutter eases the critical job of cleaning a hospital room, so limit the patient’s personal items. Keep them off the floor and away from waste containers.

Visiting multiple patients – If you are visiting multiple patients (as a volunteer, for instance, or a member of the NHH Spiritual Care team), clean your hands before and after seeing each one. Visit patients in isolation last, and be sure to follow any precautions specified.

Upon discharge – Keep the patient healthy back at home by following discharge instructions and eliminating germs from the environment with sprays, wipes and frequent cleaning of hard surfaces.

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