Healthcare professionals have long known the importance of proper glove use during patient care. For over twenty years, exam gloves have been worn to prevent transmission of bloodborne pathogens. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandates that gloves be worn during all patient-care activities that may involve exposure to blood or body fluids. So when we hear of a healthcare professional that has ignored such clear and common sense direction, the medical community and the public react with surprise and disgust.
Last week we heard such a story. Ohio dentist Dwight Pemberton, at the Dayton VA Medical Center, admitted to not washing his hands or changing gloves between patients for eighteen years. So far, 375 veterans have been tested for hepatitis and HIV. Seven people have tested positive for Hepatitis C and two have tested positive for Hepatitis B. The VA places the number of potential veterans exposed at 535, but many suspect there are far more. All this was due to one reckless employee.
Fortunately, the vast majority of dental and healthcare workers understand the need for proper hand hygiene and glove use, and comply with OSHA. Dental practices and other healthcare settings routinely educate their staff on infection control. They also ensure everyone has easy access to exam gloves, sinks with soap, and alcohol-based hand rubs and foam.
Download a free bloodborne pathogen safety training powerpoint presentation to use in your facility or organization.