10 Apr 19
Eben Van TonderEben Van TonderSouth AfricanProject AdministratorBangladesh

Bangladesh: Stopping infection and doing the laundry

Eben is in Bangladesh, where an MSF team is helping local hospital staff save lives by controlling infection. 

In my last blog, I wrote about tackling a huge waste problem here at the Sadar District Hospital supported by Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

One of the key objectives of our project is to reduce what are known as “hospital-acquired infections” (infections patients get while they're in the hospital, rather than something they arrived with) and in this, infection prevention and control also plays a crucial role.

Everyday habits

A key challenge in this process is changing people’s behaviour.

Changing people’s everyday habits is never a quick or easy endeavour in any environment. Introducing basic hand hygiene practices has been an ongoing process of training and reinforcement for months now.

However, there is progress. Albeit slow, it still is progress.

Our infection prevention control team work in close collaboration with their health promoter colleagues in a combined effort to change behaviour and establish good practices.

The health promotion team is also involved in raising awareness with patients and their relatives about proper hygiene practices.

One big challenge here is spitting. Everyone seems to spit everywhere, even in the hospital. Like I said: changing behaviour is not easy.

An essential practice

Infection prevention and control is essential in healthcare settings as it maintains a safe environment for patients, healthcare workers and the surrounding community by reducing the risk of spreading infectious diseases.

In our project, we focus on hand hygiene, cleanliness of the environment, waste management (discussed in my last blog) and laundry.

Infection prevention and control is also important in the battle against antibiotic resistance and the spread of multi-drug-resistant bacteria.

The laundry room

In the past, hospital laundry used to be partially outsourced with no control over the processes, while the remainder of the laundry, including bloodied bed linen, was hand-washed in the hospital corridors.

Our infection prevention and control team collaborated closely with the MSF logistics team to construct and equip a new laundry facility in the hospital where no such facility had existed before.

We have now identified the most critical hospital functions and started doing their laundry in-house in our brand-new facility.

This is critical as micro-organisms that may be present in hospital linen need to be eliminated with proper laundry processes to ensure adequate cleanliness and adhere to infection prevention protocols.

Saying goodbye

During my time here in the project, I have witnessed a dramatic, visible change in the cleanliness of the hospital. This is confirmed by comments and observations from my Bangladeshi colleagues. The impact of the MSF project team have had in the hospital is something I am very proud of.

To my colleagues, I say well done on a great achievement! Your persistence and hard work is bearing fruit.

This will be my last blog from Bangladesh. In about month from how, my time in Bangladesh will come to an end. I will leave with fond memories of my time working here and the warmth with which I was welcomed and hosted.

It’s hard to believe that this is the end of my nine-month long assignment but as I leave, the work must continue since health needs here are great. Please consider to donating to MSF – without your generous support none of this will be possible.

On a personal note, I would like to thank my partner, Fran, for her continued love and support while I’m away on assignment.

I’m looking forward to some downtime at home before departing on my next assignment.

See you soon, Iraq!

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