Needle-stick injuries – where the skin is punctured unnecessarily by a used needle – and the improper use or disposal of needles and other sharp instruments are among the most common issues in health care services in the developing world.
In these circumstances, both patients and health care professionals are at risk of exposure to the HIV virus, as well as hepatitis B and C and other transmitted illnesses that could have serious health consequences.
Hospital audit finds opportunity for improvement
Through the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, a charity focused on promoting and supporting health at work, the U.K. Medicine and Occupational Health (MOH) department of ExxonMobil funded Liverpool University student Reem Mahmood’s audit of needle-stick injuries at the Meru District Hospital in Arusha, Tanzania. She found that while the staff was aware of potential hazards, hospital practices did not support safe needle use or disposal. She observed overflowing safety boxes, needles on the floor, used needles on trolleys, the reuse of needles and other potentially dangerous conditions.
When her five-week placement ended, the hospital agreed to implement many of Mahmood’s recommendations, including a thorough record of reported needle-stick injuries, new posters to demonstrate how to use and dispose of needles safely and discussions on the safe use and disposal of needles during weekly training sessions.
“It will be very beneficial to return to the hospital to see if the recommendations are having an impact,” Mahmood says. “Some basic educational steps can make a big difference to hundreds, if not thousands, of lives.”
At ExxonMobil MOH clinics, the company implements “Fundamental Rules for Using Sharps ” to reduce the risk of needle-stick injuries. These rules include the same principles Mahmood recommended in her report.