There has been a lot of discussion about the role of the Environmental Services team in helping to control the spread of infection and superbugs in healthcare facilities. While the educational work done by various professional organizations such as AHE, SHEA and APIC has in recent years shed a brighter light on the benefits of a clean environment in helping to stem infection rates and MDROs, the healthcare industry has been working towards this outcome for several years now.
Back in 2009, as an example, Joint Commission Resources published a toolkit guide directed to hospital chief executives and their leadership teams called What Every Health Care Executive Should Know: The Cost of Antibiotic Resistance. The guide was intended to provide strategies for hospitals to address the challenges of MDROs in their facilities, to be used at all levels of their organization.
Recognizing that most cross-contamination occurred from touch, the main approaches advocated by the JCR at the time were hand and environmental hygiene, isolation precautions, active surveillance for MDROs, and decolonization of infected patients. Today, we take many of these approaches as policy. What we are doing differently today, however, is greater coordination of these approaches among hospital disciplines that historically did not work closely together.
At a recent ARTA (American Reusable Textiles Association) gathering, Peg Luebbert, a hospital infection preventionist, presented the clinician’s viewpoint of the infection control challenge to an audience of laundry operators and healthcare textile industry executives. She described linen services as a method for minimizing the risk of pathogen transmission.
And now AHE (Association for the Healthcare Environment) is offering a Certificate of Mastery in Infection Prevention and Control (CMIP) for environmental services professionals, helping to further bring together the EVS and IP teams in facilities.
The acknowledgement that those that clean and maintain our healthcare facilities and patient and staff textiles (which are 90% of the items patients contact during their stay) can have a positive impact on reducing the rate and costs of infections is long overdue. The environmental hygiene industry is hard at work developing tools, products and practices to help, from the largest UV light robots to the smallest microfiber fibers to trap and remove pathogens, but it will be the training and recognition of the environment hygiene teams in the facilities that will put all those good tools to good work.
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