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8 Tips to Reduce Vendor-Related HAIs in Healthcare Facilities

Posted on 5/29/2015 8:19 AM by Thom Wellington

Healthcare facilities are continuously filled with vendor employees performing necessary work. This includes elevator technicians, painters, flooring contractors, plumbers, electricians and more – all without functional knowledge of how their work can negatively affect an immune-compromised patient. More than 50 percent of all Aspergillus, spp. related hospital acquired infections (HAIs), which are contracted due to common molds attached to dust particles, are caused by maintenance or construction related work.

In an effort to reduce the overwhelming number of HAIs that occur annually, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that ALL personnel working in a healthcare facility have infection control training. The following crucial steps should be followed by all vendors working in the facility to reduce the impact of vendor-related HAIs in healthcare systems and maximize patient health. 

  1. Flush water supply lines
    Deadly bacteria can be found in water pipes where water does not move – known as dead legs. Dead legs are perfect incubation locations for microbes and must be eliminated. Flushing water systems also controls the debris of potential dislodge from vibration disturbance in the wall. 
  2. Store materials in dry areas to prevent molding
    Mold grows quickly in a moisture-filled environment and travels through the air. Patients exposed to mold can acquire serious health issues. Before putting away construction materials, check the storage area for high humidity or water damage.
  3. Clean all equipment daily and thoroughly
    Debris removal and dust control are extremely important to preventing HAIs. Be sure that the ventilation systems in a construction area are securely sealed to prevent bacteria being exposed to clean areas in the facility.
  4. Ensure workers leaving the site are clean
    Before leaving a job site, remove debris from clothing and shoes. Exiting a construction area covered in the smallest amount of dust or other harmful, bacteria-laden debris can expose an immune-compromised patient to a deadly HAI.
  5. Transport all materials correctly
    When transporting materials from one location to the next, correctly cover with tight fitting plastic or a dampened clean cloth to avoid airborne infections.
  6. Become aware of CDC and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) requirements
    Knowledge of recommended or required infection control training for vendors is essential in improving hospital efficiency.
  7. Implement facility-wide infection control training 
    Facilitating a hospital-wide training model that can be accessed 24/7 for all vendor staff ensures that the staff will be educated to make a difference and improve patient care. Address issues that healthcare staff members encounter on a daily basis to eliminate reoccurrence. Every vendor employee that enters the hospital should complete the training courses and learn about their role in HAI prevention. 
  8. Record all construction and renovation work
    Documenting maintenance projects will aid in fighting legal action if a patient acquires an HAI. Lawyers representing an HAI patient build cases around facility negligence, resulting in unsettling legal fees and a loss of credibility.

Imagine the following scenario occurring in your facility:

Contractor employees are working near a Radiology Suite without proper barriers and engineering controls. As they work, they disrupt a debris cart-cover made of fabric that has not been cleaned in over a month. The bacteria and fungi that had been carried on the cover now travel through the air and attach to medical instruments, lab coats and other items that will come into contact with patients throughout the hospital. Although the contractors were following protocol, they did not know how infections are spread and consequently did not take the necessary precautions to protect patients. Even the smallest amount of migrating dust can severely harm patients, especially those who have weakened immune systems, and result in the development of an HAI or even death. 

An alarming five percent of all hospital stays result in readmissions due to infections that patients acquire in the healthcare facility. HAIs are widely seen as preventable and often caused by hospital conditions or human error. Each year, HAIs are costing healthcare facilities more than $30 billion and are, more importantly, claiming 99,000 lives – that’s 271 deaths each day. To reduce the risk of HAIs, which are now claiming more lives annually than AIDs, breast cancer and car accidents combined, all vendors should become familiar with and follow these crucial tips in preventing vendor-related HAIs.

Thom Wellington is the co-founder of Infection Control University and CEO of Wellington Environmental. Reach him at: thom@infectioncontroluniversity.com

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Planning for Energy Efficiency in Cold Climates

Posted on 5/28/2015 9:21 AM by William A. Turner

As you read this, spring has sprung, the risk of frozen sprinkler pipes has subsided; your heating budget is likely used up, and at some point very soon if not already done, you need to ensure the air conditioning is in working condition.  Hopefully, you just completed a bunch of lighting upgrades and added some interior films on the southwest facing windows to reduce your AC load this season.

May is a perfect time of year to plan heating energy efficiency improvements to get completed before next winter. It is a bit late to have a contractor perform infrared imaging of your facilities to determine which buildings are the highest priority for air sealing obvious holes and adding insulation, however if you simply compile your fuel and energy bills from the past year or two and evaluate the amount of BTUs consumed per square foot within your buildings, you can often develop a good priority listing.

Whether or not you participate in a program sponsored by your state or local utility, it almost always makes economic sense to: 

  • Have the boiler or furnace serviced – even 1/32 inch of accumulated soot reduces efficiency.
  • Install a programmable thermostat to control the heat and AC, or a smart NEST thermostat.
  • Have a boiler temperature reset control installed on the boiler to control boiler temperatures based on outdoor temperatures allowing it to run much more efficiently.
  • If your propane or natural gas heating equipment has served its useful life, consider switching to a 93% plus efficiency condensing unit.
  • Change the air filters; install a pleated filter, and change it according to manufacturer guidelines.
  • If you have an older furnace or rooftop unit with just one firing rate, powered by propane or natural gas, it is likely that switching to a condensing unit would make sense.
  • Consider the use of a ductless (mini-split) heat pump or other high efficiency zone heating or cooling device. The newest models are now efficient and reliable at -10 degrees F.
  • If not done yet, eliminate all incandescent light bulbs in your facility – switch T12s to high efficiency T8s.
  • In high bays of any type, consider a switch to T5s and add automatic lighting controls or LEDs for even better energy performance.
  • If your building experienced a frozen pipe during the winter now is the time to find that cold air leak that caused it, completely air-seal the gap with expanding foam to stop the cold draft from causing future damage. If critters are found, put copper mesh or steel wool in first.
  • Consider replacing old single pane windows that are not airtight or adding interior storm windows if the windows do not need to be frequently opened for ventilation.
  • If a meeting space is not frequently occupied or is rarely occupied by the maximum number of occupants, install CO2 demand control ventilation. 
  • And do everyone a favor while you’re at it and put any high use photocopiers in their own room, while installing a high volume quiet bathroom exhaust fan on the light switch in that room.

Looking for more ways to boost efficiency in your facility? The Energy Star benchmarking tools, found at the Energy Star website are an ideal place to start, because they can help you develop a picture of how your facility performs compared to similar facilities.

Follow this link: http://theboc.info/blog/?p=2027 to complete the accompanying quiz and earn a maintenance point to renew your BOC credential. 

William A. Turner, MS, PE, is the CEO of Turner Building Science & Design, LLC and is a Senior Vice President in the H.L. Turner Group Inc. Reach him via email at bturner@turnerbuildingscience.com or by phone at 800-439-3446.

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