Healthcare environments are prone to many different pathogens, and it is crucial to stop them from spreading to keep down the incidence of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) and cross-contamination of staff and patients.
And, while there is a common consensus that surfaces like bedrails, call buttons, and bedside tables can be hotspots for bacteria; little research has been done to investigate the spread of infection from privacy curtains.
Hospitals use cubicle curtains to provide privacy for patients. However, they are touched by many different members of staff, visitors, as well as the patients themselves, and there is increasing awareness of them being a probable source of infection.
A lot of efforts have been made within healthcare to minimise the spread of bacteria by managing their growth on high-touch surfaces, but one source of infection has previously been overlooked – privacy curtains
For example, in 1998, an intensive unit care in Birmingham, UK, was able to trace an outbreak of the multi-resistant bacteria, Acinetobacter baumannii, back to privacy curtains and dry fabrics.
Regular laundering and changing of curtains can prevent this to a certain extent, but not completely, since exchanging them every time they are touched is not only impossible for the staff, but also bad for the environment.
Now UK specialist company in disposable privacy curtains, Marlux Medical has tackled this challenge head on, by partnering with Microban International and including antimicrobial technology in its products.
The disposable privacy curtains from Marlux have Microban SilverShield technology built into them during the manufacturing process.
The silver ions work 24/7 and can eliminate up to 99.9 % of bacterial growth without adversely affecting the material, providing a long-lasting solution that keeps the surface of the curtain cleaner for longer.
And, when used in conjunction with regular disinfection routines, Microban technology decreases the probability of surface cross-contamination by helping to prevent the growth and proliferation of bacteria, including those that are known to be resistant to many antibiotics.
The curtains also benefit from Fast-Fit technology, enabling hospital staff to change them within three minutes.
Steve Brewster, chief commercial officer at Marlux Medical, explained: “Privacy curtains act as a protective barrier around the patient and, with antimicrobial technology built in, they give an added shield against the spread of HAIs.”
At the moment, there are different guidelines in different hospitals and health boards, but the protection offered by treated curtains needs to be recommended by the policymakers to be adopted across the whole healthcare sector
Recycling services are also available for the curtains as the company takes the issue of the environmental impact of disposable consumables very seriously.
Brewster said: “We are always researching ways to make our products more environmentally friendly, keeping a close eye on how often curtains should be changed.
All of these factors can make a difference, but it depends largely on the setting.
“For example, in an infectious disease unit or surgical ward, the curtains would ideally need to be changed every day but, in a general ward, monthly would be sufficient.”
“However, raising awareness at a local level is not enough.
“At the moment, there are different guidelines in different hospitals and health boards, but the protection offered by treated curtains needs to be recommended by the policymakers to be adopted across the whole healthcare sector.”
For this reason, the partners are working closely with the Care Quality Commission (CQC), National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), and infection control nurses, as well as whole infection control departments in the hopes they will reach a common consensus that makes sense for each individual department, not only in UK, but also in other countries.
Brewster said: “A lot of efforts have been made within healthcare to minimise the spread of bacteria by managing their growth on high-touch surfaces, but one source of infection has previously been overlooked – privacy curtains.
“Marlux is working to address this problem by treating its disposable curtains with Microban antimicrobial technology, which actively protects them between the changes, delivering enhanced cleanliness and added peace of mind for patients, visitors, and healthcare professionals.