The Vancouver Sun is reporting on efforts by hospitals under the auspices of the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) to check on the efficacy of its hygiene efforts by using hand-held ultraviolet lights. VIHA staff will identify and mark 10 high-touch areas in a patient room or area of a hospital, returning 24 hours later to see if the mark has been removed by thorough cleaning performed by the environmental services personnel.
Using ultraviolet light is part of the overall effort to improve healthcare facility cleanliness in the wake of an 11-month Clostridium difficile outbreak that began in 2008 at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, infecting 94 people and killing five.
In early January, VIHA announced a new contract with Crothall Services Canada, covering housekeeping services at Victoria General, Nanaimo and Cowichan District hospitals and at Cairnsmore Place and Dufferin Place residential care facilities. This new contract increases cleaning services for patients, provides continued accountability for maintaining service standards and increasing staffing levels.
According to the Vancouver Sun article, "This new approach to cleaning, developed in co-operation with VIHA's infection-control department, is part of all new housecleaning contracts across the island. As part of its monitoring, VIHA is testing UV equipment provided by Westech Systems Inc. in three facilities - Victoria General, Nanaimo and Cowichan District hospitals. The technology will officially roll out in all VIHA facilities in 2013, the second year of housecleaning contracts. The device looks like a small flashlight. It emits high-energy UV light that will be absorbed by the marking material - likely some type of phosphor - placed by VIHA inspectors on frequently touched surfaces in a given healthcare facility. Seconds after exposure to the UV light, the electrons in the material, which become 'excited,' return to a lower energy state by emitting light; that is the phosphorous glow that inspectors will see, said Rob Lipson, dean of science at the University of Victoria."
Murray Hutchison, VIHA's corporate director of general support services was quoted as saying, "It's a good observational and educational tool. We looked across the cleaning industry and this is really starting to get some legs."
According to the article, "VIHA staff is manually entering the results of the inspections on computers. In the future, auditors will use a hand-held device to record results of inspections and immediately send them to facilities so that they can be rectified immediately."
The Crothall contract increases service standards and quality monitoring processes, including:
- Raising cleaning outcome standards for key areas to 90 percent from 85 percent, and standardizing microfiber-based cleaning methodology.
- Increasing staffing levels.
- Creating a specialist team to respond to outbreak cleaning and having this team work on maintenance and cyclical cleaning in non-outbreak times.
- Enhancing monitoring processes, including adding ultraviolet auditing and placing increased emphasis on auditing high risk areas.
- Introducing more patient and staff satisfaction surveys.
- Using advanced, green cleaning techniques such as low water and chemical consuming floor-care machinery.
The value of the Crothall contract is $10.61 million per year over five years, with a five-year extension possible at VIHAs discretion.