How often do you wash your hands during the day?
Global Handwashing Day was yesterday and the Southern District Health Board staff are trying to get better at it.
The health board has introduced "champions" in its wards to encourage staff to maintain high levels of hygiene.
In June, a Health Quality and Safety Commission report showed southern district hospital staff did not wash their hands enough, only 62 per cent of the time, according to World Health Organisation guidelines.
Health board director of quality Tina Gilbertson said they were undergoing the next audit, which is due out in November, and believed they were on track in meeting targets.
"Since the July audit we have re-energised our focus on this important patient safety measure. From CEO to frontline staff, the profile and commitment to improving hand hygiene has become more visible with everyone very much keeping their eye on the ball."
The Partnership for Handwashing website, which helps to promote the handwashing day event and raise awareness, says routine handwashing before eating and after using the toilet "could save more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention" and reduce deaths from diarrhoea and respiratory infections.
Public Health South medical officer of health Derek Bell said there was a small increase in the number of rural gastro (stomach) cases this time of year.
"Scrupulous attention to hand hygiene, which includes handwashing and drying, is the most effective way to limit the spread of any infection, including when caught in the process of handling farm animals and pets."
The global handwashing day was originally created for children and schools to promote handwashing.
At Queens Park Early Childhood Education centre, children learned about the importance of handwashing and how to do it properly.
Head teacher Susannah Smyth said teaching handwashing was a regular part of their day but they were teaching children a little extra about it to celebrate.
"All the children practise it and we will continue our focus on it, it's part of our routine," she said. "Just a little extra emphasis today to highlight the importance of it."
Michael Schwer is a journalism student at SIT.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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