- The Environmental Services worker is on the front-line in the battle against Healthcare Associated Infections (HAI’s). Without ES in the trenches, these organisms could easily gain a foothold in any hospital in any place in the world. Such organisms cause bacterial and fungal infections and possible death. Some patients become debilitated for life.
Patients are put at risk when housekeeping surfaces such as bedrails, telephones, bed controls, handles, faucets, etc. are contaminate with MRSA or VRE. Heavy doses of antibiotics like Methicillin and Vancomycin tend to destroy the good stomach flora as well as the bad. These two antibiotics are the “end of the line” in the big guns of antibiotics; if they don’t kill the organism making a patient sick, the patient may convert to MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) or VRE (Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecalis). These two drug resistant organisms can go dormant and live on a hard surface for up to 56 days.
Knowing bacteria and fungi names is not enough for Environmental Services professionals who need to know how they spread, know their life cycle, when they are vulnerable to disinfectants and using disinfectants that will eradicate them in the quickest amount of time.
ES professionals need to be trained, coached and given the right amount of time to “kill this virulent enemy”. Then the clean surface needs to be checked for “clean”. The fact is, surfaces appearing to be clean might not necessarily be clean when scientifically quantified or qualified. Remember, what you can’t see, can hurt you. You should be striving for health-based or hygienic cleaning (cleaning for healthier environments and not just for appearances).
A well-trained staff, given adequate time, equipped with the best tools, products, and processes will likely deliver a clean, sanitized, or disinfected room. But, to be certain, you need to be able to demonstrate thorough measurement that the cleaning regimen is producing the desired results. Be intentional about measuring the important factors, especially the cleaning of touch-points.
At a minimum, the use of microfiber cloths and mops have proven to provide a cleaner surface than cotton rags and string mops. The goal is to remove as much bacteria-laden soil from a surface as possible. High denier microfiber can remove 94%-97% of the soil from a surface; and along with it goes 94-97% of the “bad guys, the enemy”. With nothing to feed on, bacteria will soon die (remember, they need food, moisture and oxygen to live and multiply; remove one of those three and they can’t survive.)
ES leaders must know the differences of available disinfectants, technologies and tools. Most importantly, they need to provide staff training and education on a continuous basis. If the ES team wins, our patients win, too! They don’t go home with something they didn’t come into the hospital with, an HAI.