Best Practices for Cleaning to Help Reduce Healthcare-Associated Infections
1847 it was first discovered that hand-washing could help stop the spread of infection. It wasn’t however until the 1960’s that hospitals started monitoring and developing their own infection control programs, which facilities are required to have in place today.
Despite current widespread awareness of the need for infection control, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that on any given day about one in 25 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection (HAI).
The impact of these infections is high: HAIs are a leading cause of death in the United States, and HAIs in hospitals alone result in up to $33 billion in excess medical costs every year.
With heightened awareness of the impact and increased monitoring of infectious diseases from MRSA to Ebola, your healthcare facility likely has strategies for surveillance, prevention and control of HAIs in place. There are also simple tips that your staff can keep in mind as they keep infection prevention a top priority to protect patients from HAIs that can lead to serious health conditions.
Top Tips to prevent infection
- Education of Staff – Provide routine formal training to educate staff on the difference between cleaning and disinfecting and how these processes impact the spread of infection. Cleaning is the process of removing soil from a surface, as soil can harbour germs, such as influenza. Disinfecting is the process of killing the germs. Cleaning should be done first in order to allow disinfecting agents to be effective.
- Set cleaning frequencies, and follow current best practices: Every item, room and unit in your facility should be cleaned not only according to current best practices, but also as frequently as the area requires. For example, the emergency department should be cleaned on a continual basis, while offices may be cleaned only once a week. The area’s risk of infections determines how frequently and how it is cleaned.
- Use multipurpose products: To simplify cleaning and disinfecting tasks while increasing efficiencies, use EPA-registered multipurpose products designed to clean a broad range of task areas and disinfect in one step. Product labels should indicate against what bacteria and viruses a multipurpose product or stand-alone disinfectant is effective. Train staff to follow label instructions for proper usage and dwell times. Cleaning and disinfecting with one product can help save labour time and money and simplify cleaning and disinfecting procedures, which aid in getting the job done right the first time and reduce the need for rework.
- Clean high-touch areas: Germs are pervasive in our environment and are easily spread by surfaces and contact with others. Pay added attention to high-touch surfaces that are often missed, such as door handles, sink faucets, food trays, countertops, chairs, tables, light switches, toilet handles, handrails and elevator buttons. Consistently clean and disinfect these areas throughout the day to help get rid of germs. Additionally, staff should clean and sanitize mops and other cleaning tools to prevent cross-contamination. Look for multipurpose products that are virucidal and bactericidal, and refer to label instructions for proper usage and dwell times.
- Promote hand-washing: Hand-washing is one of the most important steps that staff can take to help fight the spread of germs, bacteria and disease. Create and enforce proper hand-washing protocol to reduce germs and keep staff accountable. Post hand-washing reminders throughout the facility for staff, residents, patients and visitors to follow.
- Stock supplies: Facility managers should ensure that there are ample supplies in all areas where staff, patients and visitors are sanitizing their hands. Stock and clean all soap, hand sanitizer and paper towel dispensers frequently throughout the day. Keep hand sanitizers and soap replenished, and regularly empty trash cans.
Impact on Staff, Patients and Facilities
While it is a great responsibility of staff and the facility to maintain and control infections, the consequence of not meeting this responsibility is greater. Staff is affected by HAI in a number of ways, including:
- Increased time for care, diagnosis and treatment of a patient when an infection is acquired.
- Increased infections can lead to nurse burnout, while studies also show that increased nurse burnout leads to an increase in infections.
Patients obviously suffer if they acquire an infection in your facility, and some of that impact includes:
- Leading cause of transfer to a hospital (from a non-acute facility).
- Loss of function.
- Pain and suffering.
- Increase in falls and pressure sores.
- Sense of isolation.
- Further weakening of the immune system.
Article by Beatrix Babcock – Housekeeping Pest Control Waste Management