Importance of infection control and suction equipment

In the mid-1970's, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals (JCAH) made it a requirement that hospitals must have an active, hospital-wide infection control program. Over time, the infection control concept, along with its practitioners, has gained substantial power due to the costs associated with nosocomial or hospital acquired infections. In 1976 it was estimated "that one and a half million patients spent an additional seven days in a hospital ... cause of such an infection. The cost was a staggering $ 1,000,000". (Today this estimate is over $2,000,000,000 annually.)

The introduction of prospective payments has further augmented the importance of the Infection Control Practitioner (ICP) and Risk Management. Nosocomial infections add costs due to increased hospital stays that may not be reimbursable under current DUG plans.

The primary function of the ICP is to monitor the nosocomial infection rate and recommend procedure or product changes so as to improve the quality of patient care. This involves the constant surveillance of infection including information collecting, analysis, and reporting. It also involves the supervision of isolation techniques, education of staff, and the advising of the Infection Control Committee. It is, therefore, safe to say that with most ICP's time is a precious commodity.

Aseptic technique should be used by all personnel coming into contact with suction equipment. After handling suction equipment, hand washing is necessary to prevent the possibility of cross-contamination.

"Since suction canisters (including liners) are disposable, they should not be reused. It is risky to use these canisters again since the shutoff valve, the filter, or the antifoam device may not function properly once these components become wet or saturated, ... Costs vary from $1.3 to 3.25 per canister. The risk of reuse does not outweigh the savings."

"Common sense dictates that suction canisters should be changed between each patient. A current issue seems to be how often they should be changed when in use. Some recommendations suggest the change when the canister becomes full. This is an unreasonable practice since some suction canisters may not fill up for days, weeks, or months. It seems reasonable ... to change the canister every 24 hours or when full (whichever comes first.) The final decision however, should rest with the Infection Control Committee."