Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Change perception, that is the point

September 19, 2010

An otherwise healthy school suddenly has an outbreak of Community-acquired Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA).

A hospital has an increase in hospital-acquired infections (HAIs).

In both scenarios, the reality is that the facilities'' cleaning staff is to blame. Fair?

Since our last issue, rather since researching science''s role in our industry started, there have been skeptics.

There are several debates at the core of the argument.

For example, cleaners still provide an appearance-based service.

Also, if we continue on this path of cleaner as infection control specialist, is the cleaner to blame if an outbreak occurs?

These are two solid arguments.

Before proceeding, I''ve never been employed as a commercial cleaner or as a service contractor.

I do not have the experience of "winning" the account or keeping the customer happy.

I do have experience from an unbiased, third-party viewpoint.

Real lives tilt the issue

A few years back, a relative was in the hospital for surgery.

She is the head nurse at the hospital and we were sure she''d receive the best care possible. She got MRSA.

After we found out, my wife and I drove six hours to be by her side.

Upon arrival, I sat in the waiting area and, well, waited.

Something telling happened that surely affected me more than anyone else in the waiting area.

A "cleaner" arrived with a top product canister of disinfectant wipes.

She didn''t look enthused.

I proceeded to watch this cleaner as she used one — and only one — disinfectant wipe in the entire area.

Don''t get me wrong; the seats and tables she was cleaning were low-risk for MRSA or HAIs. I thought, "Probably a tight budget and as long as it looks clean…"

Remember, this is an appearance-based service.

But then I thought about it more.

This is an appearance-based industry and the appearance of the worker was that of poor quality.

And, if this is the appearance that is being projected in public view, what happens behind the scenes?

Around the same time, a veteran of the cleaning industry called me on the verge of tears because his mother had just passed away as a result of MRSA complications.

His hospital cleaning experience was similar to mine — cleaning crew used same dirty mop water in patient restrooms and around bed areas.

Those of us fortunate enough to attend industry events and symposiums are well aware of the dangers practices like these pose.

But your facility is doing a disservice to the community by not training and re-training cleaners and by limiting spending on product purchases.


Send comments or thoughts on this topic or any other article that appears in CM/Cleaning & Maintenance Management® magazine, to rdipaolo@ntpmedia.com.