Original Research

Occupational exposure to blood and body fluids among primary healthcare workers in Johannesburg health district: High rate of underreporting

Collins C.E. Mbah, Zuberu B. Elabor, Olufemi B. Omole
South African Family Practice | Vol 62, No 1 : Part 2| a5027 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/safp.v62i1.5027 | © 2020 Collins C.E. Mbah, Zuberu B. Elabor, Olufemi B. Omole | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 November 2019 | Published: 14 May 2020

About the author(s)

Collins C.E. Mbah, Department of Family Medicine, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Zuberu B. Elabor, Eastern Cape Department of Health, Aliwal North, South Africa
Olufemi B. Omole, Department of Family Medicine, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Healthcare workers (HCWs) are at risk of bloodborne infections from sharp instrument injuries and skin and mucous membrane exposures to contaminated blood and body fluids (BBF). While these have clinical and occupational health implications, little is known about BBF exposure and its reporting pattern in South African primary healthcare (PHC). The aim of this study was to determine the rate of BBF exposure, the extent of reporting and the reasons for not reporting among HCWs in PHC facilities in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Methods: In a cross-sectional study involving 444 participants, an 18-item, self-administered questionnaire was used to collect information on socio-demographic characteristics, HCWs’ exposures to BBF in the last year, whether the exposure was reported and the reasons for not reporting. Analysis included descriptive statistics and chi-square test.

Results: Most participants were nurses (87.4%) and female (88.1%). About a quarter of participants (112) reported having at least one BBF exposure in the last year. Overall, there were 355 exposures, resulting in 0.8 BBF exposure per HCW per year. Of these exposures, 291 (82.0%) were not reported. Common reasons for not reporting include lack of time (42.72%), perception that the source patient was at low risk for human immunodeficiency virus (24.7%) and concerns about confidentiality (22.5%). Blood and body fluids exposures involving nurses (p < 0.001), sharp instrument (p < 0.001) and HCWs aged < 50 years (p = 0.02) were significantly more likely to be reported.

Conclusion: This study found a high rate of underreporting of BBF exposures among HCWs in PHC facilities in Johannesburg, suggesting an urgent need for interventions to improve reporting.


Keywords

blood; body fluids; occupational exposure; healthcare workers; injury reporting; sharps exposure.

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