As you may have read in last week's UHN News, we're currently implementing a needle-less campaign to increase staff safety. I'd like to tell you a little bit about why this campaign is important.

In 2004, the Ministry of Labour required all Ontario hospitals to develop a plan to replace all needles and sharps with safer products. Accidental needlesticks involving healthcare providers and hospital staff occur 70,000 times each year in Canadian hospitals. Serious infections can be transmitted through needlesticks, including HIV, hepatitis B and C. Naturally, testing and treatment after needlesticks can be an enormous source of stress and anxiety. Based on the experiences of other hospitals, we know that a "needle-less approach" can decrease needlestick injuries by 80 per cent.

Reducing injuries also results in savings for hospitals since the cost of testing and treatment following needlestick injuries is high, as is the emotional toll for staff undergoing these tests and treatment.

Many of you are already aware that UHN has been gradually replacing needles and sharps and learning how to practice with safety-engineered devices. There are three main initiatives underway as part of the UHN Sticks Out campaign:

  • Ongoing conversions to safer "needle-less" systems on all units
  • Following up after needlestick injuries with the aim of improving prevention strategies
  • Needle-stick injury helpline (ext. 7885 "STUK") for information about what to do in case of a needlestick or sharps injury

Shifting to "needle-less" equipment isn't always an easy transition; apparently, it can take a month or more for staff to get comfortable using a new device. This is a long-term project, and we will continue to upgrade to newer and better devices for many years to come. Education and support throughout the process is vital-I encourage any of you who have questions about the devices or how to use them to talk to your manager or your unit educator.

I'd like to thank our staff for their efforts as they undertake this long-term change. Because of their efforts, UHN is a safer hospital for all of us.


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