The COVID-19 pandemic is posing major challenges to global healthcare systems – especially when it comes to ensuring the usual infection control measures are in place. In an interview with Astrid Gödel, Hygiene Specialist at the Herz-Jesu-Hospital Münster-Hiltrup, Gödel explains how her institution is handling hand hygiene, and which strategies they are implementing to interrupt the transmission of infection.
Markus Theißen: Ms. Gödel, hand hygiene has become an even more important measure for infection prevention since the rise in cases of the novel coronavirus. How has this affected your institution?
Astrid Gödel: Of course, the heightened awareness of the challenges caused by the new coronavirus is also noticeable among the staff and patients in our hospital. We currently have extremely high consumption of hand sanitizers. This is particularly noticeable in our risk areas such as the isolation ward, the central emergency room and the intensive care unit. In the intensive care unit, we are able to monitor exact usage of sanitizers, because we use the OHMS smart dispenser solution there.
There is a significantly increased awareness among our employees regarding the necessity of hand hygiene, whether it concerns hand washing or hand disinfection. For this reason we also decided to install an ingo-man® plus T A Touchless for hand disinfection directly at the employee entrance, which is very positively received and intensively used by the entire staff.
Markus Theißen: How do you see yourself in terms of your dispenser infrastructure?
Astrid Gödel: Due to the sometimes critical availability of hand sanitizers, we have decided to withdraw disinfectants from dispensers and areas where hand disinfection is not necessary, according to the WHO’s 5 moments and where washing hands is sufficient.
Instead, we have paid special attention to the sanitizer dispensers located in close proximity to patients, i.e. the dispensers that are important for the 5 Moments for Hand Hygiene, as well as to our PRAESIDIO sanitizer dispensers at the ward entrances. In this way we can guarantee a continuous supply at these critical points, at all times.
Markus Theißen: Several hospitals report supply shortages of hand sanitizers. How are you dealing with the situation in concrete terms?
Astrid Gödel: The Herz-Jesu-Hospital has also been affected by supply bottlenecks for hand disinfectants. Fortunately, our pharmacy was able to produce a preparation itself, which was accepted by our employees without any problems. Due to the dispensers’ compatibility with the Euro bottles it was no problem to switch to our own brand.
Unfortunately, in the early days of the Corona pandemic, there were also minor thefts of disinfectant in our country. However, there were few incidents and luckily the damage was not too great.
Markus Theißen: What other preventive measures is your hygiene department currently implementing to contain COVID-19?
Astrid Gödel: We started very early with prevention measures. For example, the entrances for employees and visitors were separated and equipped with touch-free disinfectant dispensers.
In addition, regular training sessions were held with our employees to explain the rules of hygiene (sneezing and coughing in the crook of your arm, etc.). These hygiene rules were also displayed in the form of information posters in all elevators and in the visitor and patient-relevant areas.
Of course, there were also regular training sessions for employees on how to put on and take off personal protective equipment. We attached particular importance to special training units for COVID-19 patients in our risk areas. Naturally, the corresponding distance rules were observed.
In addition, we have set up an outpatient fever clinic for visitors / patients directly at the hospital entrance. There, we measure the temperature of all visitors, and ask questions about possible symptoms, any recent travel, or contact with individuals who tested positive for coronavirus.
In the course of the pandemic, the rules for visitors were tightened so that only one visitor per patient was allowed per day. Later, the authorities made wearing face-masks mandatory, and implemented an absolute ban on visitors.
Markus Theißen: Ms. Gödel, thank you very much for taking the time for this interview.