Nosocomial infections, also known as hospital acquired infections, are a serious and growing problem in hospitals worldwide. Not only are the number of nosocomial infections growing, but also the infections themselves are becoming increasingly more resistant to the antibiotics traditionally used to treat them.
As a result, hospitals and medical facilities are searching all avenues, looking for ways to slow or minimize the spread of infection. One area that has received a considerable amount of attention is hand washing, which has long been recognized as one of the most important factors in reducing the transmission of nosocomial infections. Nevertheless, even where extensive hand-washing procedures have been implemented and followed, nosocomial infections continue to spread.
Another area medical professionals are earnestly examining is hospital housekeeping, including all cleaning products and procedures used to maintain a medical facility. "In a healthcare setting, housekeeping is probably second only to hand hygiene in infection control," says David Frank, a cleaning consultant and President of the American Institute of Cleaning Sciences, an organization that establishes standards to improve the cleaning industry's professional performance.
According to Frank, a hospital that pays close attention to the cleanliness of all surfaces—from the floor, up— is a hospital that can reduce nosocomial infections. "Housekeeping, when performed effectively, creates a healthy environment for the patient, visitor, and healthcare worker," he says.
Need for Education
Most hospitals are aware of the impact of nosocomial infections, however some hospital workers are unaware of just how easily germs and bacteria, which spread infectivity, can be transmitted.
For instance, in many hospitals, string mops and buckets are still the most common tools used to clean floors. One problem with this method is that during the cleaning process, the soiled mop is reinserted into the cleaning solution—contaminating the solution. The tainted mop is then used to clean other areas in the hospital, while the user is unaware that they are spreading contamination.
Additionally, the cleaning professional usually "touches" the soiled mop head and impure cleaning solution in order to change them. If they then touch other cleaning tools such as sprayers or vacuum cleaners, or surfaces such as walls, door handles, railings, water fountains, or bedside tables, it can result in cross-contamination.
Recently, some medical facilities have started using dual-bucket systems. Dual-buckets have two compartments, one for the cleaning solution, and one for the rinse water. Unfortunately, many users have found that some dual-bucket systems slowly leak, thus contaminating the cleaning solution.
Additionally, just as with a traditional bucket, as soon as the contaminated mop head is placed in the cleaning solution it becomes contaminated—unless the housekeeper allows for adequate dwell time—usually 3 to 10 minutes—which is unlikely in a busy hospital setting. And, the mop head and bucket still might be touched in the changing process, just as with traditional buckets, potentially spreading infection.
One Hospital's Solution
Donald Hammons CEH is the Housekeeping Services Manager at Women's and Children's Hospital in Charleston, WV, a dedicated hospital cleaning professional, and an enthusiastic member of the International Executive Housekeeping Association [IEHA], Inc. He is well aware of the dangers that occur when housekeepers touch other cleaning tools or surfaces after mopping floors.
To avoid touching altogether, Hammons has purchased six KaiVac No-Touch Cleaning™ systems from Kaivac, Inc. "We clean our operating rooms walls and floors with the KaiVacs," says Hammons. "We used to do them with mops and buckets and clean the walls by hand, using sprayers and cleaning cloths. It was messy, slow, dangerous, and then there was always the concern about cross-contamination."
With the KaiVac, Hammons avoids touching contaminated surfaces. The walls and floors are sprayed using the KaiVac's chemical-injection system. Clean rinse water is then used to blast away germs, bacteria, and soil. A squeegee and wet/dry vacuum then remove the soils and facilitate drying.
Hammons adds that he will not purchase new cleaning equipment unless his staff is also happy with the machine. "We all found the KaiVac machines to be ergonomic, easy-to-use, much safer and [more] thorough than traditional cleaning equipment," he says, "and we soon realized they essentially eliminated the potential to spread infection by touching contaminated mops or buckets."
Hammons and his staff have also found that their cleaning times have significantly decreased using the KaiVacs. "The KaiVac is really an exceptional piece of equipment," says Hammons. "It keeps my hospital clean, minimizes the spread of infection, improves productivity, and is appreciated by my staff—exactly what we want for our hospital."