By Daphne Chiew Le Min, School of Medicine, Imperial College London

Hygiene in the clinical setting is essential for preventing and reducing the spread of infection. Mr Tan Si Rui, Principal Optometrist of First Wear Eye Centre, noting this, gave a lecture regarding “Clinical Hygiene and Infection Control in Optometric Practice” at the Singapore Primary Eye Care Symposium (SPECS) 2019 held from 23-24 July 2019 at One Farrer Hotel.

He highlighted the fact that there is currently no local dedicated channel for infection control and as such believes strongly in increasing awareness of these issues. Mr Tan then spoke about the Workplace Health and Safety Act, and emphasized that both employer and employee are responsible for ensuring workplace safety. Good hygiene habits also protect both patients and practitioners and it is ideal that all healthcare practitioners keep themselves up to date with certain key vaccinations.

As primary eye care practitioners, they are at increased risk of airborne infections, due to the close proximity to the eyes, nose and mouth of patients, although risks to one’s health and potential cross contamination are considerably higher in the hospital than in the community. Hence, primary eye care practitioners should aim to attain high hygiene standards, namely via using wipes containing minimum 70% isopropyl alcohol to clean surfaces (or follow local practice/hospital SOP if available) as well as practicing adequate hand decontamination protocols.

With regard to appropriate hand washing, studies have shown that although alcohol hand rub is the decontamination method of choice for many healthcare professionals, it has inferior bactericidal activity when compared to hand washing with soap and is unable to remove dirt and debris. Furthermore, if insufficient hand rub is used, the desired bactericidal activity is not achieved. It is also essential to wipe hands dry with paper towels, as damp hands can increase bacteria growth, and avoid the use of warm hand dryers as they have been shown to increase the amount of bacterial growth on hands.

Finally, the use of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is also highly encouraged in appropriate situations such as wearing masks when ill, or gloves when there is a risk of contact with bodily fluids.