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Infection control in the Middle East – SABIC

Infection control in the Middle East – SABIC

How the materials used in hospitals can help fight infections

The recent outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome this summer in Saudi Arabia brought urgent attention to the importance of protecting patients and clinicians from contracting infections while in healthcare facilities. In one week, there were 13 new cases of MERS, one of which resulted in death. Infection control is critical to preventing widespread MERS and other life threatening illnesses in healthcare facilities, especially when newly infected patients often only have symptoms similar to that of the common cold.

Hidden symptoms, which made the Ebola outbreak in Africa also difficult to control, in addition to a number of other factors such as lack of hospital cleanliness and poor sterilisation procedures, can significantly increase the risk of contracting an infection. Seven out of 100 hospitalised patients in developed countries, and 10 out of 100 patients in developing countries, acquire at least one healthcare-associated infection at any given time, according to the World Healthcare Organisation. This equates to hundreds of millions of patients contracting infections while receiving medical care, which has concerning implications for patient health and the wider economy.

Heightened emphasis on infection control in hospitals and other medical facilities, including those in the Middle East, is putting the spotlight on how medical equipment and devices are sterilised. But with populations growing rapidly, life expectancies rising and ambitious medical infrastructure projects underway, this is only driving demand for more advanced healthcare and even better infection control. The pressure is on for hospitals and medical facilities to improve and maintain exceptional standards.

Gulf Cooperation Council governments and healthcare providers are already making a strong push to rapidly develop and invest in their healthcare sectors. Preparing to host major international events like Dubai Expo 2020 and FIFA World Cup 2022, the sheer volume of people entering the region will be at an all-time high and hospitals and medical facilities must be ready. The United Arab Emirates is already on its way to becoming a major global medical tourism hub, with the number of visitors seeking treatment locally instead of abroad rising steadily. Dubai alone attracted 260,000 medical tourists in the first half of 2015, up 12 per cent on the same period a year ago. There is no doubt that these efforts have helped develop the UAE’s healthcare sector into one of the best in the world.

It is clear that the region’s healthcare sector will continue to rapidly develop and maintain exceptional levels of infection control. There are many important aspects to consider as the region forges ahead with its ambitious healthcare development plans. It is crucial, now more than ever, to consider the materials being used in the construction of hospitals, laboratories, equipment and medical devices across the region. There are many new technologies to support infection control, particularly in the world of materials and thermoplastics. If they are utilised now, patients and clinical staff will be better protected in the long run from potentially serious, life threatening infections.

For example, evolving global fire safety regulations and compliance with sanitation standards are driving designers and maintenance managers to identify solutions to enhance building safety. Interior walls made with a specific blend of flame retardant provides high strength and stain resistance to blood, iodine and other common stains found in hospitals and laboratories. These also have excellent chemical resistance to cleaning agents such as rubbing alcohol which can help save on maintenance costs. Utilising antimicrobial additive technology, the material can also help prevent the spread of harmful bacteria. It has already shown a near 100 per cent reduction in E. Coli, which if gone untreated can cause anemia and kidney failure. If these materials and thermoplastics were to be implemented in the region’s healthcare facilities, this could potentially result in less infection spread and more lives saved.

As the Middle East healthcare industry continues to grow and the focus on safety in hospital and other medical facilities increases, material manufacturers can play a major role in increasing infection control. GCC nations are already in the middle of rapidly developing their medical infrastructure. High performance engineering thermoplastic solutions and other materials can provide significant benefits – helping to address the challenge of infection control facing the region and world today.

Cathleen Hess is director of healthcare for SABIC’s innovative plastics business

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