Biochem Essay

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ARTCLE 2 Unwashed hands put doctors in legal peril Mark Metherell July 2, 2011 Many medical staff still fail to wash their hands. MORE than half the doctors in hospitals do not wash their hands between patients and only legal action by infected victims is likely to get doctors to clean up their act, an infectious diseases expert, Frank Bowden, says. Even after a two-year national campaign to urge staff to wash their hands between patients, about half still fail to do so. A national audit of doctors by the healthcare safety and quality commission last year showed 51 per cent failed to comply with hygiene standards. The result is that hundreds of patients end up with ''hospital-acquired infections'', which can kill them. Advertisement: Story continues below Professor Bowden, of the Australian National University, says it would take only one patient to sue a hospital successfully to transform doctors' behaviour. ''Once it becomes plain to the patient population that there is a clear link between the behaviour of their medical attendants and the risk of them contracting an infection while in hospital, it is only going to take one high-profile case of a patient successfully suing a hospital for the climate on hygiene to change.'' In his book Gone Viral - The Germs that Share our Lives, published yesterday, Professor Bowden says that once a legal precedent has been set, the cost of hospital-acquired infection will be ''directly measurable … not hidden as it currently is''. There are an estimated 6500 cases a year of staphylococcus aureus, or golden staph infections, about 20 per cent of which are linked to deaths. ''Some of these could have been prevented by careful hand hygiene,'' Professor Bowden says. The standard hospital hygiene guidelines require doctors and nurses to clean their hands before and after patient contact. This has been supported by

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