Report: Cleaning crews help manage hospital infection control

What most improves patient care in a hospital most might not be the new piece of million-dollar equipment, but rather the facility’s cleaning staff, according to a recent Scientific American article.

The increased focus on cleaning comes as increasing numbers of infectious agents have become resistant to drugs, such as antibiotics, making infections harder to treat. The type of microorganisms causing problems also have changed.

The article cites methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) that used to be the bug everyone worried about. Since it spreads through skin contact, the emphasis was on hand washing for prevention. Although proper washing still is key, hospitals now are increasingly focusing on areas of rooms that can harbor other nasty pathogens, such as curtains and handrails.

A recent study found 10 percent of hard and soft surfaces in hotel rooms may contain gram-negative bacteria (many of which cause serious infections), and about 15 percent could be contaminated with Clostridium difficile, a bacteria of special concern to hospitals, according to the article.

Enter the cleaning crews, who are responsible for ensuring the cleanliness of the facility. In an effort to improve cleanliness and the standing of those on the crew, New York University (NYU) researchers launched a pilot program to pair janitors with infection-control specialists and nurses. These “clean teams” were able to reduce the occurrence of C. difficile and the use of last resort antibiotics. The pilot program eventually became standard practice at NYU, according to Scientific American.

Work also is being done on rooms that clean themselves via specially designed surfaces that kill or repel infections organisms.

Hospitals’ reputations are increasingly predicated on their cleanliness as the federal government now posts the rates of hospital-associated infections on the web. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also will not reimburse a hospital for treatment of infections a patient got from that facility, according to Scientific American.

Want to know more? Read “Clean sweep: Hospitals bring janitors to the front lines of infection control

So, how do facilities test the cleanliness of a place, such as a hospital room? They look for what’s left behind, namely adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is present in all living things. An example of an ATP detection system is Neogen’s AccuPoint 2 Sanitation Monitoring System. For more information, click here.

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