Achoo! When you sneeze into your elbow, you are taking care not to spread germs. It is a simple gesture to protect those around you, but in a healthcare setting, it’s more than just a courtesy—it’s a necessity.
Many of the users in CIUSSS West-Central Montreal area-facilities are elderly or have weak immune systems, and are therefore especially vulnerable to infection. For this reason, healthcare staff, and indeed anyone who comes into contact with our patients or residents, must take special measures.
These measures—formally designated as Additional Precautions (APs)—are applied by Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) to protect users and healthcare workers by preventing the transfer of microscopic bacteria or viruses. They are enforced when a patient or resident is known or suspected to be carrying, or to be infected with, a particular bacteria or virus.
The AP that is put in place for a specific health care user is based on how their particular infection spreads. This can happen through contact with the patient or resident (such as holding their hand while guiding them through the hallway) or their environment (as when changing their bed sheets). Infection can also be spread via droplets, transmitted, for instance, by sneezing or coughing; or airborne, through tiny particles that remain suspended or move in the air.
When a patient or resident requiring AP is admitted to one of the CIUSSS facilities, a sign is placed above their door with pictograms indicating the necessary infection prevention measures for everyone who enters the room. The sign is colour-coded to represent the different types of transmission. For example, a yellow sign indicates the need for contact precautions. This means that the germ in question spreads via contact, and therefore anyone who enters the room should clean their hands and put on a gown and gloves.
- The use of personal protective equipment such as a gown, gloves, mask and/or facial protection.
- Environmental controls, for example, the use of shared equipment, the manner in which the environment is cleaned, and visitor considerations. This can also include modifying a patient’s room accommodation by moving them to a private room or by grouping patients with the same bacteria together.
- Engineering controls, available in certain rooms equipped with a special ventilation system that pulls air out of the room through a high-efficiency filter so that the microorganism cannot travel into the hallways or adjacent rooms.
APs are put in place to protect us all, staff and users alike. They may take a moment, but could save a life!