hospital SNC-Lavalin

More hospitals introduce antimicrobial copper

Hospitals are implementing copper as a new form of infection control
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
By Angela Woody

Hospitals have a potent, new tool in their mission to improve patient health and safety. It also happens to be one of the oldest metals known to man – copper. Increasingly, health facilities are using Antimicrobial Copper to prevent Hospital Acquired Infections (HAI), as not only does it continuously kill 99.9 per cent of infectious bacteria (including MRSA & other drug resistant superbugs), it also has the potential to save them a fortune in infection control.

Why it matters

In terms of both patient mortality and financial burden, HAIs are a substantial threat to the health care industry’s standards of patient care and financial stability. A recent study by the New England Journal of Medicine found that one in every 25 patients admitted to a hospital will contract a HAI during their stay. Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer’s Report in 2013 showed that over 200,000 people in Canada contract a HAI each year, with fatal results for about 8,000 of those patients.

The human toll is tragic, but there are additional consequences to these statistics. In 2004, it was estimated that HAIs led to roughly $82 million in additional health costs in Canada. That estimate climbed to $129 million in 2010. Antimicrobial copper not only helps protect patients, healthcare workers, and practitioners, but also reduces annual medical expenses.

Why traditional cleaning protocols aren’t enough in hospitals

Harmful infectious bacteria can survive for days, weeks, or even months on surfaces that are commonly found in hospitals, such as stainless steel and plastic. And no matter how aggressive the cleaning protocols, bacteria can easily thrive and repopulate. However, antimicrobial copper is the only EPA registered solid surface material that has been clinically proven to continuously kill 99.9 per cent of harmful bacteria. And unlike silver-based coatings, copper’s bacteria killing powers never wear off or diminish.

How antimicrobial copper works and why it’s different

Antimicrobial copper destroys bacteria on contact by attacking harmful pathogens on multiple fronts. In fact, antimicrobial copper kills 99.9 per cent of infectious bacteria within two hours of exposure. Most importantly, it prevents harmful infectious agents from mutating. After breaking down the cell membrane, copper ions flood the germ and destroy its tools for mutation, DNA and RNA. None of which is possible with stainless steel.

Copper kills superbugs, norovirus, influenza, and more

The unique features of copper’s antimicrobial properties make it just as effective at killing drug resistant Superbugs. Copper destroys MRSA, VRE, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Enterobacter aerogenes, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, E. coli O157:H7, and other ESKAPE pathogens – the leading causes of hospital acquired infections. Additionally, copper’s speed and unique antimicrobial properties make it incredibly effective at destroying common viruses that have no vaccine, such as Norovirus, as well as rapidly mutating pathogens like Influenza.

Copper touch surfaces: A simple way to reduce HAIs

Simply by incorporating antimicrobial copper touch surfaces into your routine cleaning protocols, hospitals can drastically reduce infection rates. According to a 2013 study by the Medical University of South Carolina, copper touch surfaces helped reduce HAIs by 58 per cent. In other studies, antimicrobial copper contributed to a 90 per cent reduction in live bacteria on surfaces in busy wards and intensive care units. Whether it’s used to create bed rails, door knobs, chair arms, call buttons, over-bed tables, IV poles, taps, door handles, light switches, keyboards or push plates, antimicrobial copper can easily be installed or retrofitted in a matter of minutes. In many cases, the installation simply requires a screwdriver.

Cost savings vs. stainless steel

Hospitals that switch to antimicrobial copper can also see long term cost savings. Multiple independent studies by The Health Economics Consortium showed that within two months of installation, hospitals recouped the initial cost of switching to antimicrobial copper via savings accrued from fewer blocked beds, shorter patient stays and better-directed staff resources. And since these hospitals can devote fewer resources to enhanced cleaning protocols going forward, those savings will only increase over time.

While copper’s antimicrobial properties never diminish, stainless steel is more problematic. Whereas copper only needs routine cleaning to continuously kill harmful bacteria, stainless steel is prone to microscopic indentations and scratches from regular wear and tear. As a result, superbugs and viruses often seep into these imperfections and escape cleaning procedures.

Antimicrobial copper is an aggressive, cost effective way to prevent Hospital Associated Infections.

Angela Woody is the Manager for Growth & Business Development at Olin Brass and is responsible for the CuVerro product line.

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