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COVID-19 update: Healthcare cleaning - understanding the issues

Published 20th March, 2020 by Neil Nixon

COVID-19 update: Healthcare cleaning - understanding the issues

Nilfisk’s John Brill speaks to Neil Nixon about the many factors which affect patient safety, importantly how critical it is to identify all risks and create detailed cleaning plans.

There is no doubt that our healthcare facilities struggle to meet standards. According to research from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control: 'A staggering 3.5 million Europeans contract an infection while in hospital every year with around 2.5 million dying or contracting seriously debilitating issues as a result.'

The challenges are infinite, made substantially more difficult by the Coronavirus outbreak. There are many factors which affect the issue of patient safety and in order to improve all elements it is important that we fully understand the issues. Identifying all risk factors and creating detailed plans is the key to success.

Hospital admissions:
A 2018 survey identified that increasing numbers of hospital admissions are a major risk factor because of the pressure it places on staff and services. Dealing with the overwhelming volume of patients means cross-contamination is exacerbated.

Hand Hygiene:
This problem has been significantly reduced over the past 25 years but remains a crucial element in preventing the spread of pathogens. Indeed, it has been identified as the main prevention tactic in the fight against Coronavirus. Constant reminders are still needed, however, ensuring the issue remains high profile for all patients, staff and visitors.

The fact is that no single person or group is responsible for the safety of patients. It is a collective contribution from all parties which create a safe and hygienic environment. The solution is only as good as the people, communication, tools, products, and training which are implemented. Stakeholders need to work together and support one another, understanding the value of each person in the chain to fight the spread of infection.

One of the significant issues is the fact that a cleaning task list can be divided up between nursing staff and cleaning employees. However, unless each party has its responsibilities clearly defined then items to be cleaned can be missed. For example, if a nurse does not clean a patient’s table and cleaning staff are unsure if this is their responsibility, the table may be missed. The surface has not been cleaned. Clarification on task assignment is crucial.

: Cuts impact the ability to hire, train and effectively clean facilities. This is a significant issue, and the one most people use as an excuse for the spread of disease. While financial constraints can have a severe impact on the ability to do the job effectively, providers must begin to look at productivity, efficiency and communication. Ensuring money is spent in the right places and used to maximise efficiency is critical. Tracking, scheduling, planning, and futureproofing are crucial aspects of mitigating risk during austerity.
Staff: Cleaning staff are often undervalued and are not always considered a critical component to the healthcare team, especially if they are employed by an outside contractor. This negative perception contributes to low morale, low productivity and eventually low standards. However, the most effective healthcare facilities embrace the cleaning staff as an integral part of the team and value both their input and their contribution to keeping patients and staff safe.
Communication: In terms of leadership, the lines of communication need to be exacting. Managers need to ensure all employees understand their value and the impact their role has on patient safety. While a chain of command is necessary, a team culture needs to be encouraged rather than one of fear and blame. Providing parameters and guidelines in which to work, while giving your staff autonomy in their day to day role demonstrates trust and value in your team. Language barriers are another obstacle which needs to be overcome. It is common for members of the cleaning team to not speak English as their first language, and this can be problematic in disseminating instructions and training. It can also be an issue on site when communicating with other stakeholders like nurses and doctors. Therefore training, education and demonstrating the value of staff members is not negotiable.
Machinery: Expensive to purchase and maintain, the training element associated with cleaning equipment cannot be underestimated. Professional, high quality cleaning equipment is, however, essential if a facility is to maintain meticulously high levels of cleanliness and keep productivity levels high. Tracking, maintenance and management are the keys to a successful relationship with your machines. There are some significant innovations which help you to budget and use your machines both productively and efficiently.

Delivering on the issues

Nilfisk has spent over a century understanding and addressing these issues. Since 1906, it has been our mission to create innovative and practical solutions to keep individuals and their environments safe. Over the years, we have come to understand the importance of hygiene in the healthcare sector. We aim to share our knowledge, expertise and our products across a global landscape to enable everyone to benefit.

We have learned many lessons and transferred our knowledge into teaching others how to provide cleaner, safer and more pleasant environments. Our research and development teams have spent years collating information and understanding the issues in this sector. Our innovative design teams then translate these findings into products, services and machines to help in providing cost-effective, long-term solutions.

Save on cost - not on clean

Acutely aware of budget constraints, the team at Nilfisk launched a campaign called: 'Save on cost - not on clean', proving that reduced operating costs with an increase in productivity can bridge the gap and keep you on track. Our R&D specialists created user-friendly systems that give the operator absolute control over resources.

A smart metering system enables the operator to decide when and how to allocate water, detergent and power based on the requirements of the task at hand. This can dramatically reduce the generic waste of resources - for example, using only water on low traffic areas or small doses of detergent in specific sections.

Smart Flow Technology:
Used with or without the Ecoflex system, smart flow considers every drop matters. The technology reduces water waste in alignment with the speed of the machine, maintaining a consistent clean while optimising water and chemical consumption.

Patented technology reduces noise levels, enabling daytime cleaning in noise-sensitive areas. This option alone can dramatically improve hygiene standards in a healthcare environment.

Tools and training

The disconnect between products or machines used and the training and implementation of a cleaning schedule can be significant. Products and machines are only as effective as the training and education that accompany them. They go hand in hand: no negotiation.

Whilst a facility may have done its due diligence on sourcing the right piece of equipment, training is just as necessary. It doesn't matter if the correct technique is used because, without the right product, it’s ineffective. Conversely it is not useful if the right product is used without the proper training to ensure that maximum performance is achieved. Training can be costly, but it's an investment which is entirely compulsory to maximise results on safety. The return on investment can be significant if training is a permanent and ongoing part of your business model. Many facilities often suggest they can’t afford training, but this important element is provided within the Nilfisk service at no additional cost.

The Nilfisk Group offers a whole solution approach - building long-term relationships for a better tomorrow. Our systems are streamlined and sound, our knowledge as deep as it is broad, and our approach is as friendly as it is fast.

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