An undervalued area on which millions of lives may depend

FM newsroom – healthcare cleaning. Healthcare-associated infections are a silent epidemic responsible for 16 million deaths worldwide each year, most of which are caused by contaminated hands and inadequately disinfected environments. Although cleaning, hygiene and disinfection of surfaces have become a priority since Covid, many institutions still do not devote sufficient attention and resources to this. What to look out for when cleaning healthcare facilities was discussed by experts at the Healthcare Cleaning Forum conference at the Interclean Forum in Amsterdam this May.

More than 900 exhibitors attended the Interclean Forum 2024 in Amsterdam. The event, which was all about cleaning and hygiene, was attended by exhibitors from around 120 countries, including Hungary’s B+N Referencia Zrt. research and development department, Lab/Da Innovations with its in-house-developed cleaning robot.

The four-day event also included the Healthcare Cleaning Forum conference, which presented the most important trends in cleaning and disinfection, focusing on healthcare institutions. Although the importance of disinfection in healthcare institutions may seem obvious at first glance, experience shows that in many institutions worldwide, this area of facility management is falling victim to cost-cutting, with severe consequences – reports.

Disinfection can save lives

According to a survey conducted in more than 30 countries with different levels of development, every 15th patient gets some kind of infection during their hospital stay, which could be prevented. Unfortunately, cleaning receives relatively little recognition and resources among hospital issues, but there is also little information on the sector as a whole.

There are no uniform international guidelines and only a few studies on the subject, making it difficult to determine how big a problem inadequate cleaning is globally. However, the good news is that the field is growing rapidly, with an increasing number of articles and events focusing on the issue, mainly driven by Covid –  Alexandra Peters, Head of Research at the Institute of Global Health, University of Geneva, pointed out in her presentation.

Didier Pittet, Professor at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Geneva, added that hand disinfection is a good starting point in preventing and stopping infections. Still, the same disinfection should be done with the environment. Health hygiene is complex, with the human factor, available technologies, and empirical research all determining its effectiveness. To ensure patient safety, the separation between the public and private health sectors must be broken, ensuring access to hygiene in both areas. It is also essential to strengthen the meeting of science and industry, systematically providing feedback to each other.

Asking the average person, everyone knows that hygiene is paramount. Still, it is not always the priority for hospitals, where cost is a factor. For hospitals, cost-effectiveness is always the top priority, – the expert added.

Presenting the figures, Edmée Bowles, a Dutch clinical microbiologist working on epidemic prevention, pointed out that inadequately protected healthcare institutions are responsible for 4.1 million infections and 90 thousand deaths in Europe every year. Investigating the resistance of microorganisms to antibiotics is very important in identifying the problem. Some microorganisms can survive up to 600 days, and disinfection is the only weapon against them.

The best-known methods are hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), ozone (O3) and UV disinfection. The latter is preferable because it is chemical-free and quick since no lengthy preparation is required, and the room can be used immediately after disinfection. It is no coincidence that B+N chose this option when it started developing its own self-propelled UV disinfection equipment. The disadvantage, however, is that the distance and angle of the machine reduce the effectiveness in shaded areas, which have to be cleaned manually afterwards.

Andreas Voss, professor at the Medical Center of the University of Groningen, also noted that cleanliness is not only an appearance, but the safety of patients depends on it—the more microorganisms in the environment, the more infections and the more deaths. The quality of cleaning depends on the cleaner, the method and the type of cleaning agent.

Common hospital shortages

According to the survey carried out in the already mentioned 30 countries, 4 percent of hospitals examined did not have adequate mops, 12 percent did not have hazardous waste separation, 22 percent had open garbage landfills on the hospital premises and 50 percent had no manager for the cleaning staff.

There was a lack of communication between the different areas in many places. So, despite the availability of the most advanced technologies and solutions, at the end of the process, the poor results are always due to the human factor.


Read part 2 of the article.


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