Now more than ever, with the Coronavirus sweeping the globe, hygiene and cleanliness are at the forefront of people’s minds. And as pressure continues to increase on medical and healthcare facilities across Australia, the vital role that commercial cleaning plays in keeping these facilities hygienic and functional is becoming more obvious.
The primary risk associated with a poorly cleaned medical facility is cross-infection. Whether it’s a local GP’s office or a hospital, patients can be exposed to different viruses and bacteria in a number of ways.
For instance, surfaces or equipment that aren’t properly sterilised can introduce bacteria into a person’s body. Or, as has become abundantly clear over the past few months, if a person with an infectious virus touches a surface in a shared area, someone else can pick up the virus. Proper cleaning can therefore help to limit cross-infection, even in places where illnesses are most common, like hospitals.
If cross-infection does occur, there are flow-on effects. Firstly, the space becomes an occupational health and safety issue for staff. This can increase the incidences of staff infection, and that risks increasing the burden on our already overworked medical system.
Medical and healthcare facilities also tend to have higher proportions of people with weak or compromised immune systems. This includes people who are already sick, as well as children and the elderly. A weak or compromised immune system means that one is more susceptible to infection and disease and will have more trouble naturally fighting an infection. In short, healthcare facilities tend to have a greater concentration of people already vulnerable to infection.
Because of the importance of keeping patients and medical staff healthy, medical and healthcare cleaning protocols are regularly and thoroughly audited.
In medical facilities, areas are categorised by the risk of cross-infection. These categories then dictate the level and frequency of cleaning required. The standards for cleaning these areas are included can be found on the Health.Vic website.
Very High-risk Areas
These areas pose the highest risk of cross-infection as patients will be more susceptible to infection and may be undergoing invasive procedures. Invasive procedures can weaken the body’s ability to cope with other infections. They can also introduce harmful bacteria or viruses into the patient’s body.
Very high-risk areas include operating theatres, invasive procedure areas, intensive care units, nurseries, special-needs patient areas and any central sterilising departments. They should be cleaned rigorously and frequently.
As with very high-risk areas, high-risk areas require careful and thorough cleaning as patients will be more susceptible to infection and may be undergoing invasive procedures. Additionally, surgical equipment and supplies may be stored in these areas.
High-risk areas include sterile stock storage, emergency departments, certain pharmacies and general hospital wards. They should be cleaned frequently. Spot cleans should also take priority.
These areas tend not to house high-risk patients nor are invasive procedures performed here. As a result, the risk of cross-infection is less likely. However, regular medical grade cleaning and spot cleaning are still important as these are highly trafficked areas.
Moderate risk areas include laboratories, waiting areas, outpatient clinics, cafeterias and cleaning equipment storage spaces.
While these areas present minimal risks in comparison to others, it is still important that good hygiene is maintained. These areas are still heavily trafficked by medical and healthcare facilities so regular cleaning is still necessary. However, most of these areas are off limits to patients and no sensitive or high-risk procedures are carried out here.
Low-risk areas include administrative areas, engineering workshops, plant rooms, storage areas for records and non-sterile supplies, and any external surroundings. These areas should be regularly cleaned to high commercial cleaning standards.
Any cleaning work undertaken in a medical facility is, therefore, highly important and rightly subject to thorough scrutiny. Without properly cleaned healthcare spaces, the entire populace would be worse off.