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How to create proactive hygiene routines in your healthcare facility

Hospital cleaning and hygiene during pandemic
Photo: How to create proactive hygiene routines in your healthcare facility
Hygiene and infection control have always been a priority in healthcare facilities. COVID-19 has reinforced how rapid and deadly virus outbreaks can be, placing an even greater emphasis on an already vital component of managing healthcare facilities.

Jim Bottomley has been working in facilities management for over 30-years. He specialises in understanding how bacteria and viruses mutate and spread through facilities and how to mitigate the risk of infections. For Jim, a proactive approach is essential in protecting against outbreaks.

“By the time bacteria or a virus has spread, it’s often too late,’ said Bottomley, ‘the best way to keep people and our environment safe is to use proactive hygiene practices.”

So, here’s how you can create a proactive and effective hygiene routine for your healthcare facility.
Focus On Frequency

If you’re auditing your cleaning processes following COVID, the first thing you need to review is methodology and frequency. Authorities have issued instructions for increased cleaning of high-touch points, and this needs to be the new norm, rather than a temporary measure.

“Increasing hygiene and sanitation practices will mitigate the chance of infectious agents settling and spreading around the facility. If you thoroughly clean more often, you’ll significantly reduce the chance of an infection taking hold” said Bottomley.

Leverage Technology

Like every other industry, the cleaning industry is being transformed by disruptive technologies. Cleaning service providers are using tracking, sensor and IoT technology to optimise service delivery.

"Managers can formulate heatmaps of facilities, identify peak times, and create usage profiles. If you enlist this technology, you can create hygiene schedules based on usage and adjust resources in accordance with peaks and troughs in visitors. That way, you can focus your increased attention where it matters, rather than wasting resources," said Bottomley.

"It would be too time-consuming and costly to ramp up cleaning procedures for an entire facility. With heat mapping and usage profiles, cleaning management can focus resources and improve hygiene practices without increasing overall costs."

Technology also connects healthcare professionals with cleaning staff.

“Nurses and doctors can use tablets or smart devices to make immediate cleaning requests. This is a powerful weapon in protecting against the spread of infection, as it means infectious agents can be dealt with immediately, as opposed to just waiting for the next round of cleaning," noted Bottomley.

Invest In Training And Retaining Staff

Providing cleaning and hygiene services in a healthcare context requires specialised skills and knowledge. A well-trained workforce and high-retention rates are paramount. If you have a high turnover of cleaning employees, you’re continually losing knowledge and having to reinvest in training again.

"Cleaners have always been essential staff in healthcare facilities, and COVID-19 has highlighted this importance. A good facility will put just as much effort into choosing the right cleaning providers as they do in finding doctors, nurses and administrative staff” said Bottomley.

“[Cleaners] are on the front line. The more skilled, proactive and invested they are, the better care your facility can provide and the more prepared it will be for avoiding viruses and other outbreaks.”

“They also deserve to be paid accordingly,” continued Bottomley, “so facilities need to make sure they are aligning with providers that promise fair pay, good working conditions and a solid career path.”

“The Cleaning Accountability Framework is doing great work in this space and ensuring the industry is more accountable for looking after its people.”

Education Is Key

Proactive cleaning procedures are reliant on every single person in a facility working towards a common goal.

“If medical practitioners, porters, ancillary workers and visitors aren't adhering to personal hygiene guidelines, then it can undo the work of cleaning teams,” said Bottomley.

“It’s up to management to ensure their employees and visitors are trained and aware of hygiene guidelines. It’s also up to cleaning teams to ensure the facilities are stocked with necessary supplies. The success of any hygiene protocol is based on a relationship between cleaning staff, facility staff and visitors/patients."

"Education makes this relationship possible. It means facility staff know what to look for, and it also means they know who to reach out to. Most importantly, it safeguards against infection by ensuring people interact in their environment safely and hygienically."

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