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Study Finds COVID-19 Risk Highest Among Nonclinical Health Care Staff

February 1, 2022

Although most of the efforts of protecting hospital staff from becoming infected by COVID-19 has been focused on clinical health care workers, a new study finds support staff—including maintenance, cleaning, and food service workers— may be at the highest risk, Infection Control Today reports.

Researchers conducting the study, published in the American Journal of Infection Control, collected data from March 1, 2020 to November 30, 2020 at the King Abdulaziz Medical City at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which comprises two hospitals. The hospitals employ 16,317 workers, including 5,282 nonclinical support staff who have limited or no direct contact with patients.

One of the findings that surprised investigators involved the higher risk of COVID-19 infection among support staff, such as administrators, researchers, cleaning and maintenance crews, food service, and security staff. The data showed support staff had a 15.1% chance of contracting COVID-19, compared to all other staff who had a 7.2% chance of contracting the disease. Previous studies suggested that nonclinical staff have lower risk of infection.

Researchers determined that nonclinical workers probably lack knowledge of methods to protecting themselves from dangerous pathogens. Data pinpointed that hand hygiene compliance and personal protective equipment (PPE) use was lower in nonclinical compared with clinical staff.

Researchers also speculated nonclinical staff may underestimate the risk of infection, leading them to not follow preventive measures such as wearing masks and social distancing.

“The finding underscores the importance of strict implementation of preventive measures among all health care works, including those performing nonclinical services,” the study states.

 

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