Healthcare cleaning – is it a special case?

Healthcare cleaning – is it a special case?


Healthcare cleaning - is it a special case?

Many companies offer specialist cleaning and hand hygiene solutions for the healthcare sector. But since cleaning should be a high priority in any facility, does healthcare really need to be treated as a special case? Ann Laffeaty poses this question to the industry’s companies.

Healthcare cleaning has become big business as a growing number of manufacturers come up with specialist systems that use steam, fogging, bespoke chemicals and UV light to sanitise surfaces.
Meanwhile bespoke soaps and sanitisers are supplied to ensure healthcare workers’ hands remain clean and hygienic at all times. These products are often used to replace the basic soap, water, detergent, bleach and Dettol solutions of yesterday.

But are they really necessary? Does the healthcare sector need to be treated as a special case or would a rigorous cleaning system and a strongly-enforced hand hygiene regime – using everyday soaps and detergents – be just as effective?

Diversey Care’s global personal care portfolio manager Emma Barrett believes a few key factors make healthcare a special case. “As the population rises, budgets are coming under increasing pressure,” she said. “This means the industry needs to reduce the total cost of cleaning – and more importantly, infection rates in healthcare since treating and caring for secondary infections has a huge impact on costs.

Life-threatening situations

“But the key feature that differentiates healthcare is the people it serves. Healthcare facilities look after the weak and infirm as well as people with compromised immune systems. Infections at the very least make a difficult situation worse but can also lead to life-threatening situations and all too often, death.”

According to Barrett the need to avoid cross-contamination is the number one healthcare priority. “Hand hygiene is critical in the battle against infections,” she said. “Microorganisms can live on surfaces for considerable periods of time. We offer high-level disinfectants that reduce the micro-load, plus tools to monitor the effectiveness of cleaning in order to help sites bring their cleaning processes up to the highest level.”

Diversey Care’s infection prevention product range includes Oxivir surface disinfectants plus hand sanitisers in various formats. The company also offers robotic Taski machines that automate floor cleaning plus traditional ride-on and manually operated machines. “We are mindful of patients’ wellbeing and ensure that our Taski machines operate quietly and that all cleaning processes have a minimal impact on the care experience,” said Barrett.

Pandemics threat

She believes increasing globalisation and the greater ease of travel have increased the threat from pandemics. ”The media has been full of stories about MRSA, C.Diff, SARS, Swine Flu, Avian Flu and Ebola over the last decade,” she said. “Meanwhile, healthcare facilities are becoming more aware of their infection rates. It has been nearly 30 years since the last class of antibiotics was discovered and the healthcare community is concerned by what this means for the future.

“Stopping the spread of these organisms is one of the most effective tools we have and the healthcare industry is actively seeking better solutions.”

Healthcare sets a high benchmark according to head of cleaning at OCS Yvonne Taylor. “Cleaners are an extremely important part of the patient experience,” she said. “By providing an effective service they ensure all theatres and wards are clean, hygienic and available for use – this results in more beds and other vital facilities being made available for patients.”

Cleaners play a vital role in reducing the cross-contamination risk, says Taylor. “Healthcare end users are vulnerable to infections so training should be provided for cleaners, both through company courses and via joint programmes with individual healthcare trusts,” she said.

According to Taylor this training should cover hand hygiene; the management of blood and bodily fluid spillages, and the safe handling and disposal of sharps, chemical and clinical waste.

“The use of personal protective equipment should also be top of the agenda along with the need to follow industry best practice; the importance of colour coding and adherence to the healthcare trust’s requirements,” she said. “For example, some trusts may require their cleaning teams to wear the same uniforms as healthcare staff, particularly in theatres.”

High quality hygiene is important across the board regardless of the premises in question, according to Taylor. However, she believes that healthcare will always be at the forefront of innovation.

“The introduction of healthcare-specific products such as fogging and UV technology has helped to meet an increasing need to control the spread of infections,” she said. “Owing to the demands of the sector we look to healthcare for best practice – and this can then be applied across many other areas.”

Healthcare environmental hygiene specialist Michael Rollins agrees healthcare poses specific challenges that are absent in other facilities. “Obviously patients are particularly susceptible to infections acquired from the healthcare environment, but the growing pressure on beds and the need to secure rapid discharge times creates further risks,” he said.

“In such a dynamic and fast-moving environment the changeover of beds creates a critical control point for decontamination between patients. There is also an increased bio-burden since there will be typically be more pathogenic organisms within healthcare settings.”

The risks in other commercial and institutional environments such as offices and department stores tend to be linked to short-term infection such as colds, ‘flu and stomach bugs, he says. “These type of illnesses are preventable through personal responsibility and by practising good hygiene,” he claims.

Another factor that makes healthcare a special case is the complexity of the equipment being used, according to Rollins. “Many surfaces are not smooth and contaminants may grow and multiply within crevices,” he said. “A mechanical action is therefore required to penetrate these crevices and facilitate direct contact with the active disinfectant.”

Seasonal challenges

Multi-touch points such as lift buttons, door handles and coffee machines shared between patients, staff and visitors add to the challenge, he says. “Seasonal challenges such as ‘flu and Norovirus should also be planned for and the frequency of cleaning and methods used should be adjusted accordingly.”

According to Rollins, the frequent use of microfibre products is a good solution for removing surface contamination and reducing the overall low bio-burden. “On discharge there are a number of deep cleaning and area decontamination technologies that can be practically employed such as steam vapour, hydrogen peroxide vapour and ultra-violet germicidal irradiation,” he said.

Filmop’s export manager Paolo Scapinello says cleanliness and hygiene are vital in any facility whether it is work, education or leisure. “That being said, any healthcare environment has an undeniable priority since its ‘guests’ are people who are already weakened and disadvantaged and must therefore be protected with the highest level of care,” he said.

Filmop’s healthcare-specific products include a pre-soaking system using Top-Down buckets; the A-B Plus trolley line made with antibacterial plastic; the Equodose on-demand dosing system and Alpha Meta Free, said to be the first trolley on the market with no metal components. “This means it can be used freely in magnetic resonance areas and other environments where magnetisable equipment is not allowed,” said Scapinello.

Besides the need to avoid cross-contamination he says the requirement to isolate all transported chemicals within closed cabinets is another factor that makes healthcare a special case. And since staff turnover is high and pressure on budgets is great, he adds that all healthcare-specific products should be user-friendly to minimise training requirements and where possible they should also reduce cost in use.

GOJO Industries Europe’s Mike Sullivan agrees that the vulnerability of patients – plus the increased risk of healthcare-acquired infections – makes the healthcare industry unique. “However, the simple act of hand washing can make a huge difference to anyone’s health whether they are in the healthcare sector or not,” he said. “This will help to prevent the spread of germs and reduce the chances of getting sick in the first place.

“Rigorous hand hygiene compliance is vital in all settings including offices, schools, hotels and restaurants.”

Products from GOJO aimed at healthcare include Purell hand sanitisers plus wipes for use on frequent touch points such as bed frames, meal trays and medical equipment. The increasing threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and other ‘superbugs’ makes healthcare hygiene of paramount importance to society as a whole, according to Sullivan.

Personal hygiene

“Viruses thrive in closed environments where people come into close contact with each other – and healthcare facilities are a haven for them,” he said. “Healthy personal hygiene practices are a vital weapon in the fight against the spread of germs in an environment where there is a constant flow of patients, visitors and staff.”

IPC offers a range of steam generators designed to disinfect surfaces without the use of detergents according to export area manager Adriano Mariano. Other healthcare-related products offered by the company include the Ecospital – a vacuum made from antibacterial plastic that has a filtration system designed to remove 98 per cent of bacteria from the environment.

“This means it is suitable for use in hospitals, white rooms, neonatal departments and ambulances,” said Mariano. The company’s Healthcare Disinfection Suite technology also covers a range of products designed to reduce bacterial loads.

Besides the need to reduce the infection risk he says noise is another important consideration in healthcare. “All equipment should have low noise levels to avoid disturbing the patients,” he said.

According to Mariano, the healthcare sector has its own specific needs and requirements – and the number of tailored solutions is growing. “The value of professional cleaning products used in healthcare accounted for around 24 per cent of the total in 2015,” he points out. “This increasing attention on the healthcare sector is being dictated by a number of increasingly strict rules and protocols requiring effective infection prevention programmes.”

Filmop’s Paolo Scapinello has also observed an increased level of healthcare specialisation within the industry. “Manufacturers of paper products, machines, chemicals and manual equipment are all in the front line to develop and realise specific solutions for healthcare,” he said. “The main reason is that nosocomial infections represent a serious problem all over the world and create a heavy burden in terms of health, costs and delays in assistance.”

And Diversey Care’s Emma Barrett agrees that specialisation is on the increase. “With the advances in technology and customers’ increasing expectations these new healthcare products will often replace outdated solutions,” she said. “At Diversey we are applying robotics and the internet of things for example.

“Meanwhile, the rise of multi drug-resistant organisms is alarming and our ageing global population is putting intense pressure on the sector. Around 16 million people worldwide die of hospital infections every year – and that makes healthcare a special case indeed.

“As a global hygiene provider we feel a responsibility to work towards changing this situation.”

Source : http://www.europeancleaningjournal.com