Nursing Home Infection Prevention Is a Group Project

Environmental services and facilities management staff called to be part of the team

July 22, 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are finding themselves the focus of front-page news as residents and staff come down with COVID-19.  A well-developed and managed infection prevention and control (IPC) program, although always important, is especially key at this time, Infection Control Today reports. 

A strong, well-run IPC program costs more time than money. All staff in the facility should be involved as they can apply essential knowledge. A multidisciplinary group should include not only managers and health care workers, but also environmental services personnel and facility maintenance staff as they are skilled in eliminating dangerous pathogens, such as SARS-CoV-2, norovirus, and C. difficile, from surfaces as well as maintaining facility HVAC and water systems to protect from airborne and waterborne pathogens, such as legionella.

Each department should identify infection control risks in their area of expertise. For example, facility managers realize each time a building wall is removed, or other construction is performed, stirred-up dust may contain Aspergillus spores, which are common in the environment. This airborne Aspergillus is now a risk for residents and staff with a compromised respiratory tract system and may lead to pneumonia or even death. The risk can be eliminated by constructing a solid barrier before construction to confine the dust before it can harm residents and workers.

Other examples of how facility management staff have a hand in infection control are through water system plans that identify areas where bacteria can grow in the water residents drink or bath in, oxygen tank maintenance for facilities with piped-in oxygen, restroom cleaning, and maintenance such as the regular changing of showerheads that can become a source of infections, and the maintenance of sink aerators which have been linked to outbreaks of Pseudomonas infections.

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