The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has emphasised the importance of maintaining clean and safe health through proper and frequent washing of hands to reduce the risk of infections and ensure healthy living. Dr Tochi Okwor, Assistant Director, Infection Prevention and Control (IPC), NCDC, said this on Friday, at the commemoration of the 2023 Hand Hygiene Day through its “Turn Nigeria Orange (TNO) Programme”, at the Asokoro District Hospital, Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the World Health Organization (WHO) describes Hand hygiene as hand washing with soap and water and/or the use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers, which is widely accepted as the cornerstone of infection control in a hospital setting.
Unfortunately, several studies have shown that adherence to hand hygiene guidelines remains low and that improvement efforts often lack sustainability.
Okwor said that good hand hygiene can save lives and prevent the transmission of infections, while calling on Nigerians to prioritise hygiene and hand hygiene.
She said now is a critical time when governments at all levels, partners and healthcare facilities across the country need to accelerate the implementation of lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and increase investments to close gaps in infection prevention and control (IPC), including hand hygiene.
“Indeed, many facilities are demonstrating strong engagement and advancements in scaling up those actions, but overall, the progress is slow, and our collective gains are at risk.
“To prioritize clean hands in health facilities, people at all levels need to believe in the importance of hand hygiene and IPC to save lives, by collaborating and acting as change agents in creating a culture of safety at our health facilities and communities,” she said.
She said that in other words, policymakers, professional groups, health workers and indeed patients need to unite on ensuring clean hands.
She said that clean care is a sign of respect to those who seek care, and it protects the health and other workers who provide that care.
“This year’s theme for World Hand Hygiene Day, 5 May 2023, is tagged ‘Together, we can accelerate actions to prevention infections and Anti-microbial resistance (AMR) in healthcare and build a culture of safety and quality in which hand hygiene improvement is given high priority,” she said.
She said that the campaign is focused on recognizing that Nigerians can add to a facility’s climate or culture of safety and quality through partnerships and building a strong coalition with all relevant stakeholders including the media, CSOs and patient groups to build and sustain hand hygiene at all points of care in the facility and communities.
On his part, Programme officer IPC, Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN), Mr Chika Igbokwe, stressed that IHVN as partners with NCDC to reinforce and make healthcare workers know that hand hygiene practice is important in breaking the chain of infections.
Highlighting the importance of the practice, Igbokwe said, “Healthcare facilities are challenged, we have the burden of care and work load is quite high, we try to make them understand that reducing the burden of infection ultimately reduces the workload because when you break the circle of that chain of infection, you are creating an atmosphere where less patients are coming to the facility and that in turn reduces the work load of the healthcare worker”.
Similarly, Dr Elujide Oluwasogo from the APIN public health initiatives, stated that, as a partner, the organisation supports health facilities in implementing HIV programme in the country, adding that, under the country’s theme, “One nation, one plan, turning Nigeria orange”, NCDC was supporting partners to ensure that facilities APIN were supporting are in the orange network in infection prevention and control.
Oluwasogo said that the essence was to ensure that those health facilities were strong in infection prevention and control.
“As healthcare workers, we train ourselves to be the change agent in the community, training people in the community on the importance of hand hygiene, so that we can reduce infection among our people,” he said.
NAN recalls that every 5th of May marks World Hand Hygiene Day! Proper hand hygiene during healthcare delivery saves millions of lives each year.
According to experts, one potential reason for low compliance to hand hygiene is that healthcare workers (HCWs) fail to realize that they are carrying organisms in their hands because pathogens are not visible.
Another possible reason for noncompliance to hand hygiene is that the HCWs are unable to associate their contact with the patient when the pathogen is perhaps transmitted from the HCWs’ contaminated hands.
Another possible reason that leads to noncompliant behaviour toward hand hygiene is that HCWs are less likely to get hospital-associated infections (HAIs). Also, the lack of compliance with hand hygiene is related to the cost of time for HCWs, and the unavailability of hand rub dispensers. (NAN)