Caribbean Health Ministers Aim To Reduce Infections

asseterre, St. Kitts – Nevis
October 01, 2007 (CUOPM)

St. Kitts and Nevis‘ Minister of Health, Hon. Rupert Herbert and other regional colleagues say they will work to reduce healthcare-associated infections through a series of actions that include getting healthcare providers to improve hand hygiene.

The Ministers of health and delegates from 14 Caribbean countries signed a declaration at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) on Saturday pledging support for the First Global Patient Safety Challenge: “Clean Care is Safer Care,” an initiative of the World Alliance for Patient Safety – World Health Organization (WHO).

The ministers and delegates are among dozens of top health authorities gathering in Washington, D.C., for the 27th Pan American Sanitary Conference, which takes place Oct. 1 to 5 at PAHO headquarters. Health Planner in the Ministry of Health, Mr. Andrew Skerritt is also attending the meeting.Infections acquired in healthcare settings are a major public health problem worldwide, with some 1.4 million people suffering from them at any given time. In the United States, an estimated 1 in 135 patients contract an infection in the hospital or other healthcare facility. Though fewer data are available for developing countries, the risk is estimated to be 2 to 20 times higher there than in the developing world.

In addition to human suffering, these infections increase healthcare costs and contribute to growing antimicrobial resistance.

To address the problem, the WHO World Alliance for Patient Safety launched its Global Patient Safety Challenge: Clean Care is Safer Care to promote improvements in blood safety, injection practices, water and sanitation, safety of clinical procedures, and hand hygiene.

The hand hygiene component is based on the WHO Guidelines for Hand Hygiene, which emphasize the systematic use of alcohol-based hand rubs by healthcare workers before and after contact with patients. The guidelines are currently being implemented in Costa Rica, with support from PAHO and the World Alliance for Patient Safety.

“Hand hygiene is one very simple action that can greatly reduce healthcare-associated infections and its risks, and the prize is the potential saving of millions of lives worldwide,” said Sir Liam Donaldson, Chair of the World Alliance for Patient Safety and Chief Medical Officer of the United Kingdom.

“Preventing infection associated with healthcare is now an important issue in the agendas of many countries around the world.”

Donaldson presented the case of a British patient who was hospitalized for a minor sports injury, but who acquired a methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection during his hospital stay, requiring a leg amputation.

“In signing this pledge, you are not just making a bureaucratic move but initiating a chain of actions to prevent harm from coming to patients like this,” Donaldson told the Caribbean health authorities.

“We are happy to see the countries of the Americas getting on board to support the Global Patient Safety Challenge,” said Dr. Mirta Roses, Director of PAHO.

“These pledges are a fundamental step toward the improvement of health services in the Americas.”

Under sponsorship from the World Alliance for Patient Safety, PAHO is coordinating a pilot project to test the “Clean Care is Safe Care” approach in Costa Rica, and similar projects are in the planning stages in other countries of the America.

The countries signing the pledge Saturday were Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. Anguilla, a British territory, also signed.

Last week in Mexico City, ministers of health from eight Latin American countries-Cuba, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and Mexico-signed a similar pledge. So far, 55 countries in all have signed pledges promising to fight healthcare-associated infections, and more are expected to do so by the end of this year.

PAHO was the launching site for the World Alliance for Patient Safety in 2004.

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