A Derry company is behind a radical new healthcare system which could save thousands of lives in Ireland and the UK.
HigenX is the brainchild of Donegal man James Bonner, who is based in Derry at the C-Tric research centre at Altnagelvin Hospital.
It’s an automatic hand-washing monitoring system he has developed for use in the food industry and in the health service.
James’ invention, which will feature in this evening’s edition of Nationwide on RTE, is aimed at radically cutting down on infections caused by staff in catering and health services failing to adequately wash hands.
A recent survey in the UK revealed the sobering statistic that half of all staff working in food preparation fail to wash their hands after using washroom facilities.
HigenX has already been installed in 31 of the 100 branches of Supermacs open across Ireland, including in the Foodhall at Foyleside and has made an immediate impact.
“The inspiration behind the idea was to help cut down on the infections in hospitals caused by outbreaks of MRSA and C-Diff,” James explains.
“It was initially aimed at health care but obviously had uses for the food industry as well.
“The idea of the system is simple and is designed to monitor exactly how often workers wash their hands,” explains James.
“They simply wear a tag and go about their day and how often they wash their hands is recorded by a monitor mounted on the wall.
“After a predetermined time from 15 seconds to a minute their tag is validated to display a green light and a report is generated at the end of the day to determine how often they have washed their hands.
“Initially we have been looking at fast food outlets and restaurants, but the ultimate aim is to introduce it to health care.
“And ultimately we would like to have it taken up by the NHS across the whole of the UK.”
The system can be adapted to meet different needs of the food industry and hospitals - or varied depending on the needs of health care.
“For example,” explains James, “various parameters can be programmed into the tag depending on job function so a doctor might be required to wash his hands 15 times a day, while someone who moves beds might only need to wash five times.”
James is working closely with staff at Altnagelvin on a development of the project called ‘point of care’.
“It’s a reminder system with a unit above every bed so that when the doctor approaches his tag will beep until he sanitises.
“Working at C-TRIC has been incredibly useful because it gave us access to the hospital and physicians.
“We did trials with this at Ipswich hospital both in A&E and in theatres and doctors found it a great help.”
Also in the pipeline is a partnership with Hunter Apparel, a clothing company based at Springtown.
“It’s a smart uniform project in which the tag is embedded into the uniform and trials at Antrim hospital have gone very well,” says James.
Local company Chempro is behind distribution of the system and be be contacted on 02871 349370.