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HTM chem tales: Cleaning and disinfecting

by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | August 07, 2020
From the August 2020 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

A white paper Heusser referenced, “Methods for assessing the adequacy of practice and improving room disinfection” by Philip Carling M.D., said that only about 32 percent of objects are cleaned within institutions — which means some locales would exceed that percentage, but others would fall even further below. “This also raises the question of whether or not it was cleaned correctly,” Heusser said.

For his part, Heusser makes sure staff is trained to clean and disinfect devices using the proper cleaning agents while doing their day-to-day jobs. However, with so many different types of cleaning solutions it can be difficult to keep track of what’s used on what device. So they’ve devised a visual cue to keep things straight. “We came up with stickers placed on devices that are color-coded to the chemical type that we’re using. And it’s shaped to the individual. So squares are for users, circles are for EVS, and we educate on what each sticker means. There’s also writing on them to identify. This way, when the individuals are using the devices in the rooms, there’s a reminder about who is responsible and what chemical to ultimately use.”

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As far as having the proper cleaning solutions on hand, the COVID-19 pandemic has made that a particular challenge.

Michael Heusser
Heusser has seen some price gouging, but more typical is just the shortage of cleaning supplies. “We’ve had to go and buy various products that are equivalent of what we’re used to from different vendors. It’s been a constant search, we might order 10 cases, but we’re only allocated to receive two. Fortunately, we’ve been able to make the solutions we need based on bulk supplies and things of that nature, but other places probably aren’t as lucky,” Heusser says.

He’s also noticed some changes in how staff carries out the cleaning tasks. “I wouldn’t say they’re cleaning more thoroughly, they were already doing that well. It’s more that they’re being more cautious — wiping over the same spot they already cleaned for instance, just because.”

If Lister were alive today, it’s hard to say how he’d react. While a global rate of only 32 percent seems low. Prior to the pioneering work he did to educate about the importance of disinfecting and cleaning, that rate was even lower. And in facilities fortunate enough to have professionals like Heusser on staff, the number is significantly higher.

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