Healthcare workers and patients are being put at risk not only from COVID-19 but other deadly diseases as a result of an increase in sharps injuries entirely due to the pandemic. We must act now to stop this, not least as today is World Safety and Health at Work Day.
Sharps injuries are accidents where a needle or other medical sharp instrument penetrates the skin with the potential to transfer blood borne viruses, including HIV or hepatitis B or C, from the patient to healthcare worker and vice versa. Sharps injuries cause increased costs and disruption in the healthcare system, which have all been exacerbated by the pandemic anyway. Sharps injuries also have a major emotional and mental impact on staff who always put patients first and literally have put their lives on the line during COVID-19.
The preliminary findings of a survey by Ipsos MORI, commissioned by the European Biosafety Network (EBN), covering more than 300,000 healthcare workers in 80 large public hospitals across Europe show that the number of sharps injuries has increased by 22% over the last year: with 98% of respondents saying that the increase was a result of the increased pressure and stress due to COVID-19.
In 2017, the Medical Devices Regulation (MDR) was published and it included two new clauses which require that medical devices are used safely and should be designed and made to eliminate or prevent sharps injuries. Unfortunately there is a lack of clarity about what these clauses mean in practice which could lead to the use of medical devices that are not safe when the MDR is fully implemented at the end of May 2021.
To remedy this deficit, the EBN and the Spanish General Nursing Council are today publishing guidance which will ensure consistency in the implementation and interpretation of the MDR for Member States, Notified Bodies and manufacturers on these two clauses and recommends one objective criteria to be applied: medical devices incorporating safety-engineered protection systems.