WORSE THAN TOILETS: HOSPITAL ELEVATOR BUTTONS A HIDDEN SOURCE OF BACTERIA
From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton
Posted on July 8, 2014 by Stone Hearth News University of Toronto
By Sybil Edmonds, Open Medicine Journal
Elevator buttons are more likely to be colonized by bacteria than toilet surfaces, a new study of three large urban hospitals has found.
“Elevators are a component of modern hospital care, and are used by multiple people with ungloved hands who will later go on to make contact with patients,” said University of Toronto professor, Dr. Donald Redelmeier, co-author of the study and staff physician, division of general internal medicine at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and researcher with the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES).
At each hospital, 120 randomly selected interior and exterior elevator buttons were swabbed over a ten-day period. These were compared against swabs of toilet surfaces in men’s washrooms, including exterior and interior entry-door handles, the privacy latch and the toilet flusher.
Sixty-one percent of the elevator button samples showed microbiological growth, compared to only 43% of the toilet surface samples. Bacteria cultured from the elevator buttons and toilet surfaces included Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, coliform (or bowel) bacteria, Enterococcus and Pseudomonas, though they are unlikely to cause specific diseases in most cases. (Infographic at right courtesy Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.)
“We were surprised by the frequency of bacterial colonization on the elevator buttons, but we were also struck by how easily it could be avoided, specifically by the use of good hand washing or hand hygiene,” said co-author Dr. Andrew Simor, a professor of Medicine and of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology at U of T and chief, department of microbiology and infectious diseases at Sunnybrook.
The authors suggest several strategies for reducing the frequency of bacterial colonization on commonly touched surfaces.
“Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after touching the buttons, or avoid touching them altogether by using the tip of a pen or your elbow,” said lead author Dr. Christopher Kandel, a fellow, department of infectious diseases, at U of T.
“Educating the public about the importance of hand hygiene when in a hospital may also help reduce the rate of colonization.”
The study was published today in Open Medicine Journal.
Sybil Edmonds is a writer with Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, a partner hospital of the University of Toronto.
Research carried out by Christopher E Kandel, Andrew E Simor and Donald A Redelmeier and published in Open Medicine; revealed hospital elevator buttons were commonly colonized by bacteria, although most pathogens were not clinically relevant. The risk of pathogen transmission might be reduced by simple countermeasures.
They reported hospital-acquired infections are a substantial cause of morbidity and mortality.The point prevalence of nosocomial infection among hospital inpatients is estimated to be as high as 10%.Furthermore, even brief exposure to a hospital emergency department can increase the risk of such an infection.
A variety of inanimate objects, including white coats, computer keyboards, cellular telephones, stethoscopes, adhesive tape, ultrasound transducers, and radiographic equipment, harbour bacteria.
Previous studies have most commonly identified colonization by skin bacteria, such as coagulase-negative staphylococci. Surface contamination has also been implicated in the propagation of drug-resistant bacteria. Moreover, bacteria can persist on inanimate objects for days.
“We hypothesized that buttons in hospital elevators may be an additional under-recognized site of microbial contamination. At a single university in a community setting, for example, about one-third of elevator buttons were colonized by bacteria.
“The corresponding frequency of colonization in hospitals has not been described. If present, such colonization creates the potential for pathogen transmission, given the ubiquity of elevators in large hospitals, the necessity of using the buttons to operate the elevator, and repeated contacts by diverse individuals. Pathogen transmission may occur if use of the buttons is associated with ineffective hand hygiene by individuals who interact with hospital inpatients. The objective of this study was to estimate the prevalence of bacterial colonization of elevator buttons in large teaching hospitals.”
This project was supported by a Canada Research Chair in Medical Decision Sciences, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the University of Toronto, Faculty of Medicine.
I know the answer – wear gloves when you visit hospital…..
But what did we have before we knew we had bacteria and technology. We had a helpful friendly lift man and the buttons that only had his bacteria roosting on the buttons plus he had a smile and a few kind words to his passengers. Now we have a lift full of button and bacteria.
The next story is somewhat sad as it talks about the demise of an elevator man who elevated the spirits of his passengers. Sadly technology eventually took over there too… no doubt cheaper in the long run but with added bacteria as a plus. Maybe they had not thought of hospital extortionate car parking fee then.
ELEVATOR OPERATOR LIFTED PATIENTS AND THEIR SPIRITS
(Or next stop Seventh Heaven)
From the News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton
Posted July 2014
Source: Clinical Center National Institute of Health
In the 1950s, many employees, patients and visitors who entered the NIH Clinical Center immediately stepped aboard the central elevators to get to their destination. Instead of hearing ‘What floor?’ or ‘Any room for me?’ the first thing heard was “God Bless You” from elevator operator Reverend John H. Botts. The NIH Record said at one time he was ‘probably one of the most recognized and popular figures at NIH.’
Botts became a Reverend in the 1940s and conducted services among seven sanctuaries of the Church of God in Washington.
With open arms and open elevator doors, Botts began his career as an operator around 1955. There was no Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center or Ambulatory Care Research Facility at that time. The elevator bank near Masur Auditorium was close to the main entrance.
He tried to address only those who seemed to be downcast or would welcome his conversation. During his 27 up and down years of service to the NIH he touched the lives of many, including President Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1965 the President came to NIH to sign the Nation’s Health Research Facilities Amendments. After he finished his tour of the Clinical Center he stepped aboard the elevator and Botts said, “God bless you, Mr. President.” Johnson simply replied, “God bless you, too.”
At a Great Teachers lecture in 2013 Dr. Phillip Gorden, director emeritus and senior investigator with National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, spoke of Botts to an audience who had likely never heard of him and may not have known there was a person who operated the elevator.
“When you got in his elevator, you received so many blessings that you did not know whether you were going to the 14th floor or Heaven,” said Gorden. “When you saw the faces of fear coming to a new place and faces of disease that they were confronted with, and you saw this kindly gentleman give them so much relief and consolation…it was a remarkable example of what this institution is.”
Botts retired in 1981. . Just two years later the hospital began to convert passenger elevators to an automated, non-operator-controlled, system to enhance efficiency.
Not only did his passengers miss his regular friendly ‘God Bless’ welcome and smiling face albeit he may have been the first and only one a passenger would speak to that day.
I often see elderly pensioners struggling with their trolleys in the supermarkets, walking back and forward and still not finding what they need. I do make a point to passing the time of day or asking if I can help. I sometimes think I may be the first and only person they will speak to all that day.
When your children are so busy with their own children they take it granted that their elderly mother or father is coping, or they would have heard about it. Who thinks about the happiness or mental stability of someone living entirely alone? Easy to fall into this trap due to your own commitments.
Unfortunately today if a stranger speaks to us we tend to believe they intend to rob us, knock us down, shoot us, or cause a scene. What an unfriendly world we live in today.
Do you say good morning when you walk into your office? Smile at someone who tops to let you pass, wave to the driver who lets you drive through. How infrequently these days do you hear a child say please or thank you to their parents when dinner is set before them? These days we so often fail to acknowledge any kindness. These little words – please and thank you – can mean so much to someone who has put a lot of effort into arriving at that point
I no longer care about talking to strangers if it brightens their day. You should try it – it is very rewarding and you can learn new things. See you tomorrow.