Hospitals not only provide lifesaving treatment to some patients but they also cause serious illnesses and infections in other patients. Obviously, sick people go to hospitals for care. When they do so, they bring with them the disease or organism that is causing their illness. One of the most important things a hospital can do is to have an effective infection control program to prevent other patients or hospital workers from being infected by sick people coming in for treatment.
A recent study by the University of Iowa Hospitals demonstrates that one of the sources of serious infections may be the privacy curtains that are used to separate patients and provide privacy for examinations. These curtains are routinely opened and closed by both hospital personnel and visitors many times a day. Swab cultures taken by University of Iowa researchers indicate that these curtains frequently contain dangerous organisms, including staph aureus and enterococci. Some of these organisms, such as MRSA and VRE are even resistant to most available antibiotic treatments.
It is very important for hospitals to take down these curtains and wash them at least once a week. In the study, 12 of 13 privacy curtains tested had been contaminated within 1 week. In many hospitals, however, there is no policy requiring washing or replacement of the curtains that frequently. Hospital workers and visitors should also understand that they must wash their hands every time they touch these curtains or they risk transferring dangerous disease-causing bacteria to themselves or patients.