To determine paediatric emergency department (ED) staff perceptions of the effectiveness and practice of infection control measures against a novel virulent pathogen.
All medical staff of the paediatric ED in a tertiary medical centre completed a written questionnaire near the onset of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak. Level of concern regarding SARS, and perceptions of effectiveness and use of infection control measures were assessed on a 5 point scale. Statistical analysis was performed using chi2 test and one way analysis of variance with significance at p<0.05.
Response rate was 97% (116/120). All scores were given out of 5 possible points. Using isolation rooms (mean score 4.6), wearing a mask when examining patients (4.5), and handwashing (4.5) were considered most effective. Staff physicians reported handwashing more than nurses and trainees (4.9 v 4.5 and 4.5, respectively; p<0.05) while other measures were reported equally. Respondents considering SARS a high public health threat reported higher compliance with handwashing (4.8 v 4.4), always wearing a mask (3.9 vs 3.2) and gloves (3.6 v 2.9) in the ED (p<0.05), but not eye protection (3.4 v 3.0), gown use (4.9 v 4.7), or wearing a mask when examining patients (5.0 v 4.8). Staff who considered combined infection control measures effective in protecting patients and healthcare workers did not report increased compliance.
Eye protection was perceived as only moderately effective in protecting against the spread of SARS, and reported compliance was relatively poor among ED staff. Concern of SARS as a public health threat rather than perceived effectiveness of infection control measures appears to have a greater impact on compliance.