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Better curtain hygiene reduces hospital infections

It’s been an eye-opening year for clinical staff, infection control professionals, facility managers and anyone for whom clinical hygiene is part of their responsibility at work.

Preventing the spread of infection from patients and visitors to healthcare workers and back again has been a huge focus, requiring a significant increase in hygiene protocols and in many cases, the upgrade of facilities themselves.

Hand hygiene and the wearing of PPE are critical elements of infection control but ultimately if pathogens cannot be eliminated effectively from the healthcare environment, contamination will still occur.  Therefore hospitals, care homes and other settings have been looking to reduce contamination of surfaces by upgrading to materials that are easier to keep clean.

Patient privacy dividers are one surface that has a clear link to infection control. One study by the University of Manitoba  showed that some 87% of hospital curtains became contaminated with MRSA even when the patients in those bays did not have MRSA.  

Healthcare workers often touch privacy curtains after washing their hands, but before performing patient care.  This makes it impossible not to transfer bacteria from a contaminated curtain to the hands of the professional and then onwards to the patient without stringent curtain hygiene.  However, due to the time and effort required to remove, replace and launder curtains, this is often bypassed. 

Why is curtain hygiene so challenging?

If you’re familiar with healthcare environments, it’s not difficult to imagine why removing and replacing privacy curtains might get put on the back burner.  Using conventional systems, staff must climb on a ladder or step stool to reach the curtain track, manually unhook the curtain and send it for laundry.  They must then search through piles of inventory to find the right size curtain to replace it, and climb the ladder again to hook the new curtain back on.  As well as being risky, the process is time-consuming enough to cause significant bed downtime, which is something all departments want to avoid.

How can hospitals improve curtain hygiene?

Choosing curtain fabrics with antimicrobial qualities is one way to reduce the risk of curtain contamination ‘in between’ changes.  This means pathogens that land on the curtain are reduced or eliminated by active compounds within the fabric coating.

Making curtains easier to change is another important action that can be taken.  Standardizing curtains is one way to do this – either by making sure that the number of curtain size options is narrowed down as much as possible, or by reducing the number of colours and designs in use.

Reducing the time it takes to change a curtain is the gold standard – and that’s where InstaSwap comes in.  The InstaSwap system eliminates the need for staff to climb on ladders or step stools to remove a curtain panel painstakingly, hook by hook.  It’s a modular curtain system that allows a contaminated curtain panel to simply be pulled off using heavy-duty snap fasteners, for a virtually instant changeout.

The key to InstaSwap’s convenience is its mesh top panel.  This is made from non-absorbent nylon material that requires infrequent washing and only comes into contact with hands during the changeout process.  The mesh is custom fitted to the ceiling or track height, which means that a standard curtain panel can be used in every ward or department for simple inventory – no more hunting for the right curtain.  

Both mesh and curtain panels are fitted with a row of snap fasteners, so they connect together easily at head height, for ladderless changeouts.   Last but not least, InstaSwap curtain panels are treated with an antimicrobial agent that delivers additional peace of mind in between curtain changes.

Our own research shows that switching to InstaSwap can cut inventory by up to 50% and reduce laundry costs dramatically – while also improving hygiene and reducing the risk of cross-infection between patients and staff.  All things considered, can you afford NOT to switch?

For more information about InstaSwap, including a measuring guide, click here: . To enquire, get in touch with Dan Lawrenson –