20 Percent of Hospitals Don't Have Proper Sanitation, Says Columbia University Study

First Posted: Feb 27, 2014 11:35 AM EST

A previous study conducted by Columbia University revealed that many hospitals in the United States do not abide by proper sanitation protocol. The World Health Organization (WHO) and Columbia have recently conducted a study that further supports the previous one.

The paper, "Status of the Implementation of the World Health Organization Multimodal Hand Hygiene Strategy in the United States of American Health Care Facilities", is published in the American Journal of Infection Control. The study examined 168 facilities in 42 states and Puerto Rico.

The focus of this study was hand hygiene, specifically the compliance with U.S. and WHO hand hygiene guidelines. The data revealed that only half of the hospitals in the study had set aside funds for hygiene training and one in ten facilities did not support hand hygiene improvement. Compliances require that alcohol-based hand sanitizer must be present at every point of care in hospital facilities.

Laurie Conway, RN, PhD, at the Columbia University School of Nursing and Benedetta Allegranzi, MD, of the World Health Organization, led their research team throughout the study and arrived at these results. Conway revealed that the fault could be in the hands of the hospitals' senior officials.

"When hospitals don't focus heavily on hand hygiene, that puts patients at unnecessary risk for preventable health care-associated infections," said Conway in a news release. "Our study found that executives aren't always doing all that they can to send a clear message that preventing infections is a priority."

Hand sanitation may not sound like a paramount issue, but lack thereof will increase the spread of preventable infections. These "health care-associated infections" kill nearly 100,000 people annually in the United States and create an excess of $33 billion in unnecessary and unneeded medical costs. WHO's hand sanitation guidelines were issued in 2009, but these facilities have no excuse for their neglect because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first issued guidelines in 2002.

The full details of the Columbia University School of Nursing and World Health Organization study can be found in this issue of the American Journal of Infection Control

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