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Excellent Care for All

Just Clean Your Hands – A Program to support the Hand Hygiene Patient Safety Indicator

Health Care Challenge

One out of every nine patients admitted to hospital in Canada pick up infections while being treated for something else.  Each year more than 8,000 people die from these infections. Poor hand hygiene among health care workers is the single most common way that health-care associated infections are spread to patients.

“Appropriate hand hygiene is key to improving patient safety and to preventing the spread of antibiotic resistant organisms and health care associated infections such as C. difficile,” says Liz McCreight, manager of the Infection Control Team at Mount Sinai Hospital.

“Improved hand hygiene compliance can help hospitals decrease infection rates, reduce cost and most importantly – save lives,” explains Liz Van Horne, Manager, Infection Prevention and Control Resources at Public Health Ontario.

Yet, several years ago hand hygiene compliance among Ontario health care providers was estimated to be less than 32 per cent. There was a clear need for a comprehensive initiative to support the province’s health care workers to overcome barriers to proper hand hygiene, improve compliance and create a clean hands culture within organizations.

Real Change In Action

Just Clean Your Hands is a multi-faceted, evidence-based initiative that the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care designed specifically for staff working in Ontario hospitals and long-term care settings. The program, which builds on work done the by the World Health Organization and in the United Kingdom, provides a practical step-by-step implementation guide. Other elements of the initiative include:


Just Clean Your Hands was initially piloted at 10 Ontario hospitals in 2007 and the program was rolled out across the province the following year. The pilot found that some health care providers had a lack of understanding of best practices in hand hygiene. The ministry developed “Your Four Moments for Hand Hygiene” approach to teach health care providers the key moments to clean their hands.
In April 2009, Ontario launched a province-wide public reporting of hand-hygiene compliance rates, as one of eight patient safety indicators hospitals report on – creating an unprecedented level of transparency.  By this point, the impact of Just Clean Your Hands had increased to 62.16 per cent the number of health care providers who perform hand hygiene before and after contact with a patient or their environment.

Just Clean Your Hands has promoted hospital wide commitment to improving hand hygiene compliance rates. CEOs have played an essential role through leadership and role modeling,” said McCreight, the ministry’s former project manager of Just Clean Your Hands.  

Just Clean Your Hands was adapted for long-term care homes to help better protect some of Ontario’s most vulnerable residents. Investing time and energy in developing an effective hand hygiene program can lessen the burden of illness and associated costs in long-term care homes.

Better Quality, Sustainable Care

Improved hand hygiene can have a profound impact on enhancing patient safety and health outcomes by reducing health care associated infections. It can shorten hospital stays and avoid readmission.

 By reducing the transfer of antibiotic resistant organisms, enhanced hand hygiene can curb the spread of infections, which adds $40 to $52 million annually in the direct and indirect costs of providing care in Canada.

 Just Clean Your Hands is a foundational initiative in improving the quality of care for Ontarians and enhancing the health care system.

Learn more about  Just Clean Your Hands, including online training modules for hospital and long term care settings.

Contact person :
Liz Van Horne
Manager, Infection Prevention and Control Resources
Public Health Ontario
Tel: (647) 260-7312
Email: liz.vanhorne@oahpp.ca

For More Information

Call ServiceOntario, Infoline at 1-866-532-3161
In Toronto, 416-314-5518
TTY 1-800-387-5559
In Toronto, TTY 416-327-4282
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