Health care practitioners washing their hands is a step to staying healthy while working in hospitals. Photo by flickr user jar 
An influenza expert describes health care practitioners washing their hands during the flu season as an “obvious thing” that according to a recent report by Fraser Health, some employees aren’t following.
Recent report cards released by the health authority showed that across all 12 of their hospitals there was an average of 87 per cent compliance for hand hygiene. This number fluctuates between hospitals, with the highest compliance rate at Fraser Canyon Hospital with 97.6 per cent compliance, and the lowest at Royal Columbian Hospital, with 82 per cent compliance.
Hand washing helps to avoid catching the flu
Christopher Upton, a professor in biochemistry and microbiology at the University of Victoria and expert in the influenza said he would have thought health care practitioners washing their hands 100 per cent of the time would be obvious.
“Anything you can do to avoid getting infected yourself or infecting other people is good. It’s kind of an obvious thing I would have thought,” Upton said.
“I think that washing the hands is important for self inoculation because when you touch things you get it on your hands, then you touch your eyes, you poke your nose…I think it’s important to encourage.”
There is proof that hand hygiene helps to avoid catching the flu, according to Upton.
“I think the evidence is there that not just if somebody sneezes and the aerosol is there and you breathe it in,” Upton said.
“There is strong evidence that you essentially inoculate yourself, you get it on you, then you get it in your eye, then all the fluids that have been in your eye constantly drain through the sinuses into the throat and lung.”
Patients want higher compliance rate
Tina Taphouse recently visited the Langley Memorial Hospital and Surrey Memorial Hospital emergency rooms and said doctors don’t wash their hands in front of patients, so she has no way of knowing if they properly washed their hands.
“When you’re in emergency you don’t see them before they come to you, so I just assume that they would,” Taphouse said.
“It should be 100 [per cent compliance]. If you’re dealing with health and patients and food, it should be 100.”
Employee compliance has been on the rise since 2010, when Fraser Health reported a 38 per cent compliance rate, which Taphouse said she has seen an increase in information which might have something to do with those numbers.
“Definitely you can see more signage everywhere you go, and I guess there’s the education out there of telling us who aren’t in health care to be washing all the time,” Taphouse said.
HealthLink BC promotes hand washing
On the fact sheet distributed by HealthLink BC the first point on preventing the flu is regularly washing hands.
“Influenza spreads easily from person to person through coughing, sneezing, or having face-to-face contact,” according to the fact sheet.
“The virus can also spread when a person touches tiny droplets from a cough or a sneeze on another person or object and then touches their own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands.”
Fraser Health and the Ministry of Health did not respond in time for deadline.