A qualitative study exploring health workers and patient caregivers' hand hygiene practices in a neonatal unit in Blantyre, Malawi: implications for controlling healthcare-associated infections

Helen Mangochi, Rachel Tolhurst, Victoria Simpson, Kondwani Kawaza, Kondwani Chidziwisano, Nicholas A. Feasey, Tracy Morse, Eleanor MacPherson

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Abstract

Background: Neonatal sepsis causes morbidity and mortality in sub-Saharan Africa. Antimicrobial resistance exacerbates outcomes. Poor Infection Prevention and Control practices (IPC) by healthcare workers and caregivers drive infection transmission. The Chatinkha Neonatal Unit in Malawi has experienced Klebsiella pneumoniae outbreaks of neonatal sepsis. We aimed to identify barriers to optimal IPC, focusing on hand hygiene.
Methods: We used a focused ethnography to meet the study aim. Combining participant observation over a seven-month period with semi structured interviews with health care workers and patient carers (23) to provide an in-depth understanding of activities relating to hygiene and IPC existing on the ward. To analyse the data, we drew on the framework approach.
Results: We found that staff and caregivers had a good understanding and recognition of the importance of ideal IPC, but faced substantial structural limitations and scarce resources, which hindered the implementation of best practices. We present two key themes: (1) structural and health systems barriers that shaped IPC. These included scarce material resources and overwhelming numbers of patients meant the workload was often unmanageable. (2) individual barriers related to the knowledge of frontline workers and caregivers, which were shaped by training and communication practices on the ward. We highlight the importance of addressing both structural and individual barriers to improve IPC practices and reduce the burden of neonatal sepsis in resource-limited settings.
Conclusion: For IPC to be improved, interventions need to address the chronic shortages of material resources and create an enabling environment for HCWs and patient caregivers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number146
Number of pages19
JournalWellcome Open Research
Volume7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23 Apr 2023

Keywords

  • antimicrobial resistance
  • blood stream infections
  • neonatal Sepsis
  • infection prevention and control practice
  • water and sanitation hygiene (WASH)

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