Privacy Curtain Changing and Cleaning Policies

We’re just back from the Association for Professionals in Infection Control (APIC) conference in Ft. Lauderdale, and we read with interest a poster called Hospital Privacy Curtains: Cleaning and Changing Policies – Are We Doing Enough? presented there. Spoiler alert: the answer is no.

The investigators surveyed 49 infection control professionals in six states about privacy curtain management in standard patient rooms and ambulatory care rooms. They found that:

  • 96% use privacy curtains in patient rooms
  • 55% had a written policy on the frequency of cleaning privacy curtains
  • 53% had a written policy on the frequency of changing privacy curtains
  • 37% clean privacy curtains in a standard hospital room ‘only when visibly soiled’
  • 13% clean privacy curtains in a standard hospital room ‘every month’
  • 13% clean privacy curtains in a standard hospital room ‘every 3 months’
  • 13% clean privacy curtains in a standard hospital room ‘once per year’
  • 39% responded ‘Other’ to the question of how frequently they clean privacy curtains
  • Curtains were most often changed or cleaned when a patient had been discharged from an isolation room for a multi-drug resistant organism
  • 82% of respondents felt that hospital curtains are a potential source of transmission of healthcare associated infections
  • 86% felt that management of hospital curtains could be improved

We’re not surprised at these results. They are yet one more confirmation that the issue of soft surface contamination is not being sufficiently addressed. We hope some APIC attendees and other infection control professionals will view the poster and make some of the improvements in how privacy curtains are handled. We look forward to better results in future surveys.