Healthy Living: Hospital rooms get health-conscious makeover

Some hospital rooms are getting a new look, all in an effort to reduce the chances of spreading an infection. Kafi Drexel filed the following report.
Doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center seem to be putting a lot more than their two cents worth into working to prevent hospital infections in their intensive care unit. In some of the rooms you will find copper bed rails and meal trays, copper-lined computer monitors – and even a copper-plated computer mouse.
The makeover is part of an ongoing study to see if the red-orange metal surfaces can better protect patients from life-threatening hospital infections.
“We are looking to see if you decrease the bacteria count or the bacteria milieu in the room, would that have a positive or negative effect on patient outcome,” said Dr. Neil Halpem, chief of Critical Care Medicine at Memorial Sloan Kettering.
University of Southampton scientists in the U.K. have proven the bacteria killing power of copper using florescent dye to examine resistant staph under a microscope. If copper can truly play a role in lowering the number of infections, in the years ahead more of it may start to appear in hospital areas like the Intensive Care Unit where patients are most at risk.
Staff at Sloan Kettering's state-of-the-art ICU have already been doing much more to prevent infections.
“Really the critical aspect of reducing infection in an ICU is a culture change....and that means proper hand washing before or after entering an ICU. In fact there are now hand-washing systems that monitor the doctor or the nurse when they are walking in or out of the IC,” Halpem said.
To cut down on infections at the hospital, staff are even using something called electronic glass instead of curtains for patient privacy.
Privacy curtains can become contaminated, now all employees have to do is wipe down glass instead of laundering curtains in between patients. And while the value of goods like copper may fluctuate in the global market, it could be just as valuable a commodity as electric curtains and hand washing are in the hospital room.
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