“It’s Curtains For You” - Continuing news from the Superbug World
A favourite Hollywood theme is the re-cycling of curtains into emergency clothing. Remember Scarlett O’Hara pulling down the drapes at Tara in order to vamp Rhett Butler? Or Julie Andrews turning chintz curtains into fetching little outfits for the Von Trapp moppets? (Even more memorable was Carol Burnett’s take-off on Scarlett’s curtain re-cycling. Can anyone who saw it, ever forget Carol’s descent of Tara’s staircase in a ‘curtain-gown’, complete with curtain rod stretched across the shoulders?)
Well, it’s a good thing that Scarlett and Maria did their thing before the super-bug era. Why? Here’s a report from “MRSA Watch”---the UK website devoted to monitoring events linked to the most omnipresent super-bug ---Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA):
“A study from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham has highlighted a hitherto overlooked source of the killer super-bug MRSA. It has long been thought that environmental hygiene was the key to curbing the spread of the organism and infection-control staff across the country have been charged with ensuring that wards are kept clean, staff are meticulous over hand washing and wherever possible incidents of airborne infection are minimised”.
“Until recently however, one vital piece of the jigsaw has been missing, but at long last there is hard medical evidence to show that the privacy curtains surrounding patients’ beds are an important but overlooked source of outbreaks. The Department of Microbiology at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth hospital in collaboration with local partners has produced a report that conclusively proves a link between dirty curtains and MRSA.”
“The results of this controlled study show that ‘The curtains surrounding the patients’ beds were the predominant source of MRSA with comparatively high counts of organisms found’. The news comes as no surprise to the manufacturers of the world’s first disposable and fully recyclable curtains, Birmingham based Marshall Contracts”. For many years they have supplied the National Health Service with conventional fabric curtains but realised long ago that curtains aren’t usually changed very often and believed they were responsible. The firm’s new disposable curtain can be changed up to a hundred times quicker than conventional curtains, has a coating that actually kills MRSA and has been proven more cost effective than using conventional curtains.
When assessing costs, hospitals may be tempted to overlook the astronomical expenses associated with treating a patient who has acquired an MRSA infection and consequently is in need of expensive drugs and extra hospital time, not to mention human misery and actual loss of life associated with super-bug infections. Hand washing is fine and necessary but if those freshly laundered hands then reach out to draw an infected curtain around the patient, hygiene control can be completely compromised.
Immuno-compromised patients (which many of us are) need to be alert to the hygienic components of the whole curative and treatment environment we find ourselves in. Next time you’re in hospital, ask the staff how often and when they change the bedside curtains. If in response they suggest “not often” or add that frequent curtain changes are too time-consuming or expensive for the hospital to undertake, your response should be: “My dear, I don’t give a damn!”