Blog by Katherine West
Infection Control Consultant

This may just be the beginning of medical facilities observing EMS practices. Recently, a hospital in Colorado notified the EMS system that they were not to wear their gloves into the medical facility. The rationale for this request was that EMS might be bringing organisms into the hospital. Is this a real issue? Or, is the medical facility off-base?

Think about it. Most services are putting on gloves when tones go off and do not change or remove them after patient care. That means that they are contaminated. An EMS crew could be bringing C-diff or MRSA into the medical facility. If the patient is diagnosed with the infection after admission it could be deemed a Hospital Associated Infection (HAI). This would have a monetary effect on the medical facility as well as a being a medical care issue for the patient. There was never a need to wear gloves for all patient contact. Not from OSHA and not from the CDC. OSHA states that glove use was to be practical and feasible. There is no need to live in your gloves! Remember, your skin and basic hand washing are your major protection.

About two years ago, the Center for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) sent out letters to all the medical facilities in the country advising them that they would not be receiving government reimbursement for some HAIs. So, it is easy to see why medical facilities are looking closely at sources for infection and ways to reduce in incident rate for HAIs. They will be looking closely at how EMS is performing in the areas of proper use of personal protective equipment and cleaning of vehicles and equipment. EMS participation in vaccine/immunization programs will also be an area of review.

Many facilities will not allow EMS personnel in training to do clinical rotations if they have signed declination forms. Others have required EMS personnel to wear surgical masks if they declined influenza vaccine. Times they are changing!

About the Author
Katherine West is an expert in the field of infection control. Shes worked in the industry since 1975 and has served as a consultant to the Center for Disease Control and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. She authored Infectious Disease Handbook for Emergency Care Personnel and is a well-traveled lecturer and author.