The icky world of ICRA: Infection Control Risk Assessment
Interior finish technology has advanced so far in our industry that theoretically these enhancements protect us from ourselves. With additives and topical treatments combining in a crazy cocktail enhanced by nano-technology, germs are almost zapped on contact.
With the occurrence of approximately 90,000 secondary infectious disease contaminations and medical facilities being held responsible for these occurrences, it is crucial to create a clean environment where these germs and bacteria cannot thrive.
The toll on human lives is grave and the cost to hospitals is severe and damaging.
The scarce and precious funds our healthcare facilities receive should be focused on healing, instead of paying for unnecessary and preventable infections. This is not a formal discussion of the antimicrobial finishes available today, but instead a common-sense approach to infectious disease control.
Healthcare facilities can boast every bell and whistle available today to protect us from the spread of disease. Heather Waclaw of Rodenbeck Associates, an independent manufacturer of healthcare and hospital furniture, says “Products have got to be easy to clean, and cleaning is really what creates the appropriate environment.”
To which I respond: “And the environmental staff within the hospital has to take the action to clean.”
I am ASHE (American Society for Healthcare Engineering) certified, which is an important aspect to understanding the specific needs as it relates to human safety and positive patient outcomes in healthcare facilities. We learned the myriad of health safety practices to prevent the spread of disease.
Dust ledges, cracks and crevices, clean outs on furniture, air handling, above grid maintenance, and the list goes on. However, there are some very simple applications which can occur if the people in charge understood the benefits to these solutions.
A simple solution is the use of walk-off carpet tiles designed specifically to clean a person’s feet. This is not inclusive of most logo mats. These create a trip hazard and have to be constantly replaced by a service. They really do not do the job that a product designed for the task will deliver.
Another obvious solution is to rinse floors with clean water. Unfortunately, healthcare facilities are always squeezed with impossible schedules to turn beds and therefore the most basic maintenance procedures suffer.
In providing the latest technology for a safe environment, Krug, a leading designer and manufacturer of healthcare furnishings, had a simple and straightforward solution from its study with environmental services.
From the Krug study: “Many infection control people will say that in spite of how scientific they are in all that they do, hand washing is one of the biggest impactors on infection prevention. Similarly, with furniture we make it as easy to clean as possible so environmental services can do a good job.
“That means as few seams as possible, clean-outs, splash guards underneath (Krug’s innovation), and tight-grained wood (beech, maple). Related to this, materials need to withstand the toughest cleaning solutions and not to their recommended use, but rather the tough reality of wipe on and leave.”
“We offer an antimicrobial additive in the wood finish top coat and powder coat. We use silver ion. About 90 to 95 percent of our customers want this, but there is growing concern. The concern is from some of the thought leaders in the industry. Kaiser Permanente bans antimicrobial. Some feel it takes the pressure off of proper cleaning. Some question the efficacy of antimicrobial. And some are concerned about antimicrobials leading to superbugs.”
What we know is, no one really knows, so we continue to strive for a better-educated maintenance staff. We also strive for safer yet tougher products to prevent the spread of these superbugs.
It is vital to the health of any facility to use qualified professionals to provide viable options to maximize its designed health and maintenance, especially healthcare facilities.
Kelli Berry, Principal of Iconic Design Studio, has more than 40 years of experience working in large hospitals to provide accurate specifications for interior finish products.