Chilean emergency hospital protects patients with copper

Bed rails and handles replaces with antimicrobial copper equivalents to reduce spread of healthcare associated infections

The increasing interest in copper touch points as a way of reducing the spread of hospital infections is reaching around the world, with the deployment of bed rails and handles at a leading public hospital in Chile.

The Emergency Hospital for Public Assistance (HUAP) joins healthcare facilities around the globe in installing touch surfaces made from solid copper and copper alloys - collectively termed 'antimicrobial copper' - as an additional method of preventing infection.

With proven efficacy against bacteria that cause healthcare-associated infections, including MRSA and C. difficile, and highly-infectious viruses such as Influenza A and norovirus, antimicrobial copper surfaces continuously reduce contamination in between regular cleaning, reducing the risk of pathogens being picked up on people's hands and spreading infection.

At the HUAP bed rails and handles have been introduced in the critical care, burns and surgical wards, where infections can be most dangerous.

Bed rails were identified as the most-contaminated surfaces in a patient's immediate surroundings in a study conducted at the Medical University of South Carolina. The study also found antimicrobial copper rails were far more resistant to contamination than plastic rails.

With once-daily cleaning, the copper rails routinely kept bioburden below a low-risk threshold for an entire shift, whereas plastic rails needed cleaning at least every four-and-a-half hours. In a larger trial, of which this study formed a part, replacing frequently-touched surfaces with antimicrobial copper equivalents reduces the risk of infection by 58%.

HUAP - a public accident and emergency hospital and teaching facility - has also replaced door handles, sinks and taps, IV poles and overbed tables with antimicrobial copper equivalents, supplied and fitted by local company, CopperBioHealth, in partnership with Codelco.

The hospital's onsite education auditorium - which hosts medical lectures and events - has also been fitted with chairs that have antimicrobial copper arms as part of a holistic approach to infection prevention.

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