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To date, the majority of UAE Ministry of Health hospitals do not have standard infection control procedures and policies.
The Hospital Acquired Infection Control Section (HAICS) at the ministry is working hard to get hospitals to follow standard infection control procedures, to start collecting and analysing data on infections and to educate their staff about the need for infection control.
Leila Abdullatif Al Shaar, Head of the Hospital Acquired Infection Control Section at the Department of Curative Medicine of the MoH, told Khaleej Times that the HAICS has already issued its first manual on infection control, isolation procedures and health worker safety procedures, titled 'Organisation and Administration Manual'.
"In the past nurses from each hospital would volunteer to handle the task of surveillance and monitoring of infections, reporting whatever they found. It was not an organised system and the principles were unclear. Now with infection control committees set up at each hospital, the administration of these hospitals is directly involved in the infection control procedure," Ms Al Shaar said.
She added that the second manual to be issued by the section will deal with the roles of each department at hospitals in curbing and limiting the spread of infection, adding that it will take time for all hospitals in the country to adopt and follow the procedures stipulated in the first manual.
"Dibba Al Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain and Kuwaiti Hospitals have begun to use standardised data collection forms to gather daily statistical information for infection control, Dibba Al Fujairah and Umm Al Quwain hospitals have issued monthly statistics on infection control, and Al Dhaidh and Kuwaiti hospitals are soon going to issue monthly statistics as well," Ms Al Shaar said.
The data collected helps to pin point the original source of any infection that develops in order to tackle it more efficiently. The data allows health officials to locate the department or section in the hospital where the infection first sprang up, the type of micro-organism involved and which part of the body it was found in.
"Now each department at MoH hospitals has to prepare its own infection control policy regarding the health of its staff and the kind of uniforms they will wear, the equipment used, as well as preventive measures taken and how they will handle and control any infections.
"In addition, these departments will have to follow patient isolation policies and communicable diseases control procedures covered in the first manual issued by the infection control section," Ms Al Shaar said.
She said that infection control procedures will govern every function of hospitals, from the admission of visitors to isolation wards to the construction and designing of hospital buildings.
"Every section in the hospital needs to be made aware of their role in preventing infections from spreading, from surgical and medical departments to housekeeping and laundry. Each department head or head of section needs to train their staff on these new procedures," Ms Al Shaar said.
Soon visitors to hospitals will see new signs posted at hospitals, to remind healthcare workers to wash their hands when necessary, to wear masks when necessary and to put on gowns and gloves when the need arises.
"Infections can come from anywhere, from the air-conditioning system, from improper cleaning procedures, from infected visitors who come to hospital - we must consider every possibility.
"We have some contacts with the Preventive Medicine Department and we follow reporting procedures whereby any infection which arises at any hospital is reported immediately to the preventive medicine department," Ms Al Shaar said.
The section is aiming to train nurses at hospitals, who carry out infection control surveillance on a part-time basis, to learn the proper procedures, how to collect data and how to spread awareness about infection control while doing their rounds.
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