FARMINGTON — While there are continued delays in receiving both H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccine in Maine, Franklin Memorial Hospital is bolstering its efforts to prevent the spread of the flu and other infections.

The hospital has recently added respiratory hygiene stations to its entrances, waiting areas, conference center and corridors, as well at its 10 Franklin Health medical practices. The stations hold hand sanitizer, tissues and face masks along with a visual reminder to cover a cough.

Also at entrances and in the emergency department waiting area are signs urging patients to ask health care personnel if they have cleaned their hands, along with the message that clean hands save lives.

“The respiratory hygiene stations take a hands-on approach to encouraging staff, patients and visitors to practice good respiratory and hand hygiene. Patients, families and staff safety is the top priority,” said Jerry Cayer, Franklin Community Health Network executive vice president and Franklin Memorial Hospital chief operating officer. “Being vigilant about promoting and monitoring clean hands and promoting and supporting appropriate respiratory etiquette is an important way to protect everyone against communicable diseases.”

In addition, an initiative called “The Happy Hands Brigade” is in place, in which environmental services staff sanitize high touch surfaces in the hospital, such as door knobs, hand railings, elevator buttons, water fountains, chair arms in waiting areas and public telephones, at least twice a day in addition to their regular daily cleaning duties.

According to Pam Hadley, FCHN infection control coordinator, most health care personnel have received their seasonal flu shots and some have received H1N1 immunizations based upon the U.S. Centers for Disease Control priorities. Although delayed, it is believed that eventually any staff wanting the H1N1 shot will be able to get it.

Hospital officials are closely monitoring the progression of influenza in the community and are preparing for the possibility that staff will be providing care for more people infected with a strain of flu. “Our team members are following the CDC guidelines, as well as our own infection control procedures to help protect patients, staff and hospital visitors,” said Cayer.

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