Portuguese Hospital Engineering Association Considers the Case for Copper

Antimicrobial Copper was a key part of discussions at a recent event aimed at tackling high rates of healthcare-associated infections in Portugal, where HCAIs currently kill twice as many people as traffic accidents.

1st December 2016

Organised by the Portuguese Hospital Engineering Association and the Engineering Faculty of Porto University, the event specifically addressed the role hospital engineering can play in reducing the spread of infection. The first section looked at environmental science, showing the role of touch surfaces in reducing microbial load and helping prevent the spread of infections.

In a session exploring practical applications of infection prevention and control measures, Dr Francisco Guillen, Director of Preventive Medicine at Clínica Universidad de Navarra (Navarra University Hospital) and Secretary of the Spanish Society of Preventive Medicine, Public Health and Hygiene, presented on how HCAIs occur and the contribution antimicrobial copper touch surfaces have made to reducing them, and their associated impacts.

A suite of antimicrobial copper surfaces are installed in the hospital’s ICU, including bed rails, overbed tables, computer input devices, trolleys and furniture handles. Dr Guillen observed that after the installation, catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs) were 30% lower than in the previous period (2015–2016 against 2013–2014). He concluded that antimicrobial copper touch surfaces are a valuable resource to control infections not only in ICUs, but in other hospital areas.

Diego Garcia of the Spanish Copper Institute presented on the wealth of science backing antimicrobial copper touch surfaces as an effective adjunct to existing hygiene measures, providing an international picture of where copper has been installed around the world—in hospitals, care homes and other areas where the spread of infection is a concern, such as airports and train stations, schools, restaurants and gyms.

The event concluded with a panel debate, during which the participants agreed on the important role touch surfaces can play in preventing hospital infections, and the need to act on this knowledge. Starting with small pilot installations, lessons learned can then become a broad schedule of improvements that will have a positive impact on the health of patients and hospital economics.

Copper and copper alloys are engineering materials that are durable, colourful and recyclable and are widely available in various product forms suitable for a range of manufacturing purposes. Copper and its alloys offer a suite of materials for designers of functional, sustainable and cost-effective products.

Copper and certain copper alloys have intrinsic antimicrobial properties (so-called ‘Antimicrobial Copper’) and products made from these materials have an additional, secondary benefit of contributing to hygienic design. Products made from Antimicrobial Copper are a supplement to, not a substitute for standard infection control practices. It is essential that current hygiene practices are continued, including those related to the cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces.

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