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Hospital Infection ‘Who was in the room before me?’

People, in a medical situation, generally look for hospitals that are nearest to their homes, reputed and with good facilities. But one question that definitely should come up but rarely does is: Who was in this room before me? Of course, it isn’t really the “who” that’s important; what matters is actually what illness that person was admitted to the hospital with… or contracted in the hospital.

Why is this information so crucial? According to a research team headed by Dr John Boyce of the Yale University School of Medicine, if the patient previously occupying a hospital room had a highly infectious disease such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or Norovirus, there is “an increased risk of the next patient admitted to that same room contracting the multi-drug resistant organisms” associated with these diseases.

Complicating matters, the study also found that some pathogens and contaminants could stay alive far longer than was previously believed possible. In some cases, pathogens were still found several weeks after an infected person vacated a room. Boyce and his team offer two key suggestions to help stop the spread of infectious diseases in hospital settings. At the top of their list is proper hand washing by all medical staff. However, this was followed very closely with more effective and hygienic cleaning.

In fact, the study reported, “There is increasing evidence that contaminated surfaces in hospitals… are a source of transmission of pathogens…and reducing environmental contamination by improved cleaning and disinfecting practices should reduce the acquisition of pathogens by patients and result in fewer infections.” The researchers offered the following simple yet practical suggestions to improve cleaning and disinfecting of hospital rooms:

  • Visual inspections should be conducted in patient rooms after they are vacated and cleaned and before a new patient is admitted.
  • High-touch areas such as door knobs, light switches, etc., should be marked with a florescent marker to check that they are being cleaned.
  • Surfaces should be verified as hygienically clean through the use of petri dish studies or adenosine triphosphate (ATP) systems that can assess contamination levels on surfaces. The presence of ATP bioluminescence on surfaces may indicate that potentially harmful contaminants are present. ATP rapid monitoring systems are commonly used in laboratories, grocery stores, and now by the professional cleaning industry to help ensure that surfaces are clean and contaminant free.

The researchers admitted that visually inspecting a hospital room for cleanliness has obvious limitations and marking high-touch areas with florescent markers may sound a bit juvenile. Nevertheless, these suggestions were made for a very serious reason: to get everyone, especially custodial workers, focused on the importance of cleaning as it regards stopping the spread of infectious diseases.

A closer look at cleaning strategies

Boyce’s study went further, suggesting that an entirely different type of cleaning practice, method, or system might be called for in order to help stop the spread of disease. In fact, according to his research, “Inadequate cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces is usually (the) result of suboptimal cleaning practices. In many facilities, only about 50% of the surfaces in patient rooms that should be cleaned are cleaned by housekeepers.” Once again, the researchers offered some practical suggestions for addressing the issue, including the use of hydrogen peroxide “misting” systems or vapour cleaning technology. Hydrogen peroxide misting systems release small amounts of hydrogen peroxide throughout a hospital or medical facility room to help kill contaminants. Vapour cleaning systems use high temperature water vapour and pressure to clean and sanitize surfaces.

However, they also acknowledged that these systems do not always eliminate certain types of pathogens and that further investigation into cleaning systems and technologies “is warranted.”

One alternative cleaning technology that shows potential in addressing this problem – and which is already being used successfully in some medical facilities – is the use of “spray-and-vac” cleaning systems. This technology may prove especially effective in hospital settings because it helps to ensure that pathogens are actually removed from surfaces, a key concern.

Some studies indicate that more conventional cleaning methods – including the use of cleaning cloths, mops, and buckets – may actually spread contaminants from one location to another rather than removing them. According to Dr Jay Glasel, founder of Global Scientific Consulting in Farmington, CT, spray-and-vac systems can be as much as “60 times more effective at reducing bacterial contamination when compared to conventional cleaning methods”.

Although it also touches on the importance of proper hand washing, the bulk of Boyce’s report focuses on one thing: the need for effective, proper, hygienic cleaning. As Boyce makes clear, the role that cleaning plays in keeping people healthy must be stressed to cleaning professionals in medical locations as well as other facilities. Stated as simply as possible: effective, hygienic cleaning helps protect human health.

John Richter,Technical Director, Kaivac, Inc.

Care for

The world under your feet

Carpeting can improve the overall appearance of the premises but without correct care, a carpeted floor could add to the problems associated with building maintenance. A simple well-planned maintenance programme will not only make carpets look good but also stay good.

A basic understanding of the different types of carpets and the fibres used in its making could simplify maintenance techniques. Carpets are of two types – woven and non woven – used in business or non-domestic premises.

Non woven carpets are either needle punch or fibre bond. The most common fibre bond non woven carpets are available in acrylic, nylon, polypropelene, polyster and wool. The following table shows a star rating system of each fibre type against a key range of attributes.

Carpet Soilage

Soil can be categorised into either wet or dry, the latter typically accounting for 85-98% of soil in a carpet.

One of the cornerstones of an effective carpet care programme is to minimise the amount of soil that reaches the carpet, thereby reducing cleaning requirements and wearing of the carpet. It is crucial to develop an effective and rigorous cleaning programme to ensure that the carpet maintains both its aesthetic value and its functionality well into the future.

When wet, most carpets emit odour caused due to certain organic soils that get trapped in the carpet piles and emit foul smell. In case of discolorations, an over wet carpet at times develops a capillary action which allows residual stains and jute pigments from the carpet to be drawn up to the fibres giving an impression of an accidental spillage. Correct carpet cleaning programmes can eliminate both of the above conditions.

Daily Vacuuming

Of the two types of soils, dry soil is often trafficked in and can be easily removed by regular vacuuming. Daily vacuuming ensures that the larger dirt particles are picked up effectively, preventing them from penetrating deep into the carpet pile. Special carpet cleaning upright vacuum cleaners are available which are efficient and easy to use.

Dry Foam Shampooing

In cases where simple vacuuming is not enough, shampooing helps remove soil holding on to the carpet pile. This carpet cleaning process requires the use of proprietary dry shampoo machines, where the shampoo is foamed onto the carpet and brushes work the foam into the soil. This method of cleaning can be carried out in low traffic and almost daily in high traffic areas. The operation is efficient; drying time is short and leaves the carpet looking fresh and clean.

Injection Extraction

This is the best and most effective method of removing soil from the base of the carpet. It involves the injection of a cleaning fluid at high temperatures into the carpet pile. The soil is then loosened and dissolved into the cleaning fluid, which is vacuumed up again into the machine tank. This is not a regular maintenance technique and is carried out periodically.

Abhay Desai
Director Marketing – South Asia
Diversey India Pvt Ltd

Challenges in hotel housekeping

Hotel guests demand a clean, fresh room with no evidence of the previous occupant. Most travelers expect their room to be cleaner than their own homes.

With increase in communicable diseases, people are even more conscious of cleanliness and hygiene. Guests coming in from all parts of the world, hotels today face the challenge of keeping rooms and other facilities as clean as possible to prevent the spread of diseases like H1N1 and other viruses. The hotel rooms must also always smell clean since many guests have sensitive noses that immediately sniff out any stale or musty odour. Daily vacuuming is a vital step to ensure a fresh smelling room.

During high season, consistent high occupancy presents cleaning challenges. Also, when the rooms get extra dirty because of parties held the previous night, we find the cleaning job very difficult. We have also experienced guests who want their rooms to be cleaned four to five times a day. Another main challenge for the luxury hotel industry is delivering quality service with cost efficient operations. Guest service is compromised when room attendants are not provided with the right tools. Inefficient distribution of linen and supplies often mar the efforts in meeting quality service standards.

Dissatisfied guest is a big challenge for any hotel. With internet communication being the norm of the day, an angry guest may choose to send complaints through e-mails or post them on social networks which can be damaging to the hotel’s reputation. It is important that the hotel management encourage the guest to speak out the complaints, if any, during his stay itself. Negative feed back shall be taken in the right way. There are many ways in which hotels can encourage complaints; such as offering guest service “hotlines”. The best way is to simply train the staff to read the guest’s mind by observing his/her body language and facial expressions and tone while speaking on the phone.

Handling dissatisfied guest

Hospitality involves serving a constantly changing, diverse group of people with varying needs. While a hotel does its best to fulfill the needs and expectations of every guest, it is not possible to please everyone at all times. The best way to handle a guest complaint is through attentiveness along with genuine sensitivity and substantiation. When a guest believes there is cause to lodge a complaint, it is because of the expectation that exists where hospitality is concerned.

Almost all guest complaints are received by the hotel’s front desk staff. Training sessions have to be conducted on the ways to handle complaints.

Procedures Followed:

  • Listen attentively to the guest’s complaint
  • Make eye contact
  • Maintain a serious facial expression and demonstrate attention.
  • Avoid any temptation to interrupt or interject while the guest is voicing a complaint
  • Identify with the guest – Rather than to express an all-so-common, “I am sorry,”
  • Sincerely acknowledge with a full apology for the guest’s unfortunate experience or inconvenience and assure the guest of appropriate action.
  • Assess the complaint – Categorize and delegate to the appropriate personnel.
  • Apprise the guest of action
  • As per the policy in our hotel we ensure that a senior person of the team personally meets the guest to apprise him of the status.
  • Compensate accordingly for guest retention and delight.
Sharda Sharma, Senior Executive Housekeeper,
Hotel Clarion Collection, New Delhi

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