At Samaritan Albany General Hospital, patient and staff infection control starts with a simple premise: wash your hands, especially upon entering or exiting a patient’s room or surgery suite.

That simple step, coupled with numerous other protocols practiced religiously by everyone in the hospital — including family members visiting patients — has led to it being named as the least infected facility among 61 hospitals in the state for 2016.

The recognition was made by the Portland Business Journal, which tabulated data about five types of hospital-acquired infections (HAI) provided to the Oregon Health Authority by each of the hospitals.

Dan Keteri, the hospital’s vice president of patient care, called the recognition “awesome," adding that it goes to a culture that permeates throughout every department — from the cafeteria to surgery centers.

“We had five total in-hospital infections in 2016,” Keteri said. “That’s out of thousands of patient days. Our emergency department sees more than 30,000 patients alone every year.”

Keteri said four of the infections were of the same type.

“We had close to zeroes across the board,” Keteri said. “That’s our ultimate goal.”

The four infections were clostridium difficile (C. diff), a potentially life-threatening infection which can cause colitis, an inflammation of the colon. The bacteria are present in the air, water, soil and feces, and can be spread in hospitals or nursing homes where employees are likely to come into contact with the spores.

Keteri said the spores have a hard shell surrounding them and a single spore can be hard to get at, and can still cause infections.

To attack the problem, Samaritan Albany General Hospital added a misting system to its room sanitation protocol.

“It emits a mist of hydrogen peroxide and gets into every nook and cranny in the room,” Keteri said. “We let that sit for 45 minutes and then our staff wipes everything down with Clorox bleach.”

The hospital also reported a catheter-caused urinary tract infection.

Keteri said there are hand-sanitizing stations at every entrance of the hospital and every patient room.

“Washing hands is automatic with our staff,” Keteri said of the procedure. “We do hundreds of inspections per month in every department. If we see someone we think hasn’t washed their hands, we ask them about it. It’s an educational system, not punitive.”

Keteri said there is no compromise when it comes to the rules.

“Anyone can do this, you just have to be vigilant every single day, every single time,” Keteri said.

Keteri said he has been with the hospital 2½ years, and during that time he and other staff members have “put on a full court press” in terms of infection control.

Allison Reid is the surgery nursing supervisor and said it “feels great to learn about this recognition. We spend about 2,500 hours together every year, so we get to be a family. We have a lot of time together to get on the same page about this issue. We hold each other to high standards.”

Reid has worked at the Albany hospital for 30 years and said staff members, “take this subject very personally within our team.”

Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis was ranked eighth on the list of hospitals.

Nationwide, Hospital Acquired Infections affect more than 1.7 million patients and lead to 99,000 deaths annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.

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