The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says it is prepared to discipline hospital health workers who continually fail to wash their hands before attending to patients.
The WRHA said it has discussed the issue with the College of Physicians and Surgeons and the College of Registered Nurses.
Hand-washing is important to containing the spread of health-care associated infections (HAI). In Canada, it’s estimated 220,000 HAIs occur every year, resulting in 8,000 to 12,000 deaths.
Health-care associated infections are now the fourth cause of death, surpassed only by cancer, heart disease and stroke. It’s believed that at least 50 per cent of HAIs can be prevented.
Last year, an audit of Winnipeg hospitals conducted over the spring and summer found that about 50 per cent of the time staff were not washing their hands when they should — before and after touching a patient.
The study also showed that despite an ongoing education campaign, compliance rates had fallen or showed marginal improvement compared with the year before.
Today, senior WRHA executives gathered at Health Sciences Centre to publicize its latest campaign to get doctors, nurses and health care aides to wash up.
The campaign will continue to have mainly an education focus, but the WRHA said staff members who routinely fail to clean their hands before attending to a patient will go through a "progressive discipline process."