Are hospital sinks doing more harm than good?

7th of December 2016
Are hospital sinks doing more harm than good?

Fears that hospital sinks could be spreading illness have been raised by infection control experts.

And this could be a problem in the light of today's increasing focus on hand washing in healthcare according to Dr Michael Gardam, director of infection control at Canada's University Health Network. "The thing about sinks is that they're the cornerstone of infection control policy," he said.

Water channelled into hospital sinks is not sterile and therefore contains bacteria, it is claimed. Bugs that pose no risk for a healthy person could be dangerous to hospital patients whose immune systems may be suppressed. Meanwhile, the U-shaped bends in sink pipes are ideal places for biofilms to grow.

And the fact that hospital sinks are used to dispose of patient specimens and drain the dregs of intravenous bags of antibiotics can exacerbate the problem, claim experts.

Sinks have been linked to a number of recent outbreaks. One hospital in the Netherlands managed to control the spread of infections in its intensive care unit by removing all sinks from the patient rooms.

In a second case, 36 intensive care patients in Canada contracted a drug-resistant bacteria from which five later died. The outbreaks came to a halt when Dr Gardam ordered staff to stop using the sinks, which had gooseneck taps. These created a splashback which led to tiny droplets of bacteria-laced water being sprayed on to nearby porous surfaces where medical staff prepared tubing and other equipment used in patient care.

Experts conclude that the design of new sinks should be carefully considered and that more use should be made of alcohol gels.



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