Mrsa | Is MRSA In Our Ambulances?

A recent statewide study of 10 regions discovered that over 50.6% of agencies had an ambulance contaminated with MRSA. As soon as this statistic was released it caused several EMS personnel as well as treated patients to wonder: How often and thoroughly do they actually clean their equipment?

From cots to stethoscopes to side rails patients come into several forms of contact when being transferred to hospitals.

Transporting numerous patients a day, one may come to wonder how much time do paramedics have to clean in between patients.

Public safety reports that the MRSA in hospitals rate has been increasing. They conclude that MRSA infections have been linked to longer stays, higher mortality and higher costs. Just when patients feel safe in a van full of paramedics the danger may not be completely over. MRSA was mostly found on the steering wheel, backboard, handrail and cushions. All surfaces people come into constant contact with on a daily basis. The surfaces patients may be lying on and the surfaces EMS personnel may be using may contain harmful bacteria that could cause S.aureus, an extremely dangerous infection. With patients coming in so frequently it’s important that paramedics maintain a clean healthy environment due to the fact that patients with open bloody wounds may come in and their wounds could expose them to MRSA. EMS world report that emergency physician Kristi Koenig, MD, noted that “MRSA has become ubiquitous, but finding it in ambulances is a condemnation of our current sanitation practices and warns of an excessively casual attitude toward this highly destructive organism.” Physicians although shocked are not surprised. While treating patients it’s nearly impossible to think about the amount of germs that may be in the work area. Therefore there seems to be no question to why there may have been negligence to the problem. However, both patients and EMS personnel are at risk of infection and should sanitize equipment constantly. When on closely connected calls ambulances are forced to “do their best to clean” rather than return to the depot and get a sanitized ambulance. Paramedics may not have enough time to “do their best”. It’s hard to judge because taking calls could mean life or death for some people.

So, there could be good news and bad news for the patients. The good news may be for example that they’re dangerous wound has been cleaned stitched and bandaged. The bad news is that they now have an MRSA infection that will eventually send them right back from where they came. Having an in house cleaning staff was recommended, but few have the money to support such an endeavor. However, times are changing and technology is growing and Scott Neusch president of Advanced EMS Designs believes he has discovered the cure for this sudden problem called “Board Armor”. As a paramedic himself he noticed himself being forced to use dirty backboards during several calls. “You can clean a backboard 100% and ensure that there are no contaminants left (like backboard scrubbers at the hospital). A big part of the problem is where the backboards are stored on the truck. Imagine a 100% clean backboard placed on a Fire Engine, next the large diameter hose, in an open compartment, exposed to the elements and road grime. After a couple of days, that backboard is pulled off the truck to put a sick or injured patient on it only to find a layer of filth on it.” Neush said. His company has been contracted by the Dept. of Homeland security as well as the Center of Commercialization of Advanced Technology. The product “utilizes a medical grade of Tyvek fabric that is certified for blood and viral penetration”. Hopefully “Board Armor” will be released onto the market soon to solve this “high priority” problem.

For now, the best thing to do is washing hands before and after patient contact, continuous cleaning of work area and isolation of body substance.

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