03 Jul Understanding Infection Control and Clinical Impact
I have been working with ICM Project Solutions for 6 years, closely and meticulously completing over 1,500 projects which span from minor patch and repair works through to complete upgrades and modifications for QLD Health. In my time working within the spectrum of QLD Health, some things change, but some things stay the same – not out of lack of innovation, but out of the pure necessity for proven and effective methods.
When tendering on any upcoming QLD Health projects, one of the first proven and effective methodologies we take into consideration is infection control. A pivotal and often overlooked requirement when conducting construction works within a clinical setting – infection control is essential in mitigating the preventable spread of allergens and pathogens that are consistently present within a hospital or medical environment.
This level of infection control also extends to dust and airborne particle containment, ensuring that a physical barrier is constructed that efficiently separates the ongoing construction site and patients within the vicinity or ward.
So – shall we dive in? A common question I am asked is “what form of infection controls do you utilise at ICMPS?” My answer to which is usually “a lot.” In the context of this article however, I think it is necessary to elaborate.
Infection control processes that we utilise include, but are not limited to; zip walls, sticky mats, personal protective equipment (PPE) and disinfection of tools and reusable materials. Outside of the extendable support poles (which are disinfected), the plastic barriers used in zip wall construction are disposed of. This removes the risk of cross-contamination when reinstating zip walls in a new area within a medical facility as each location, regardless of similarity to previous projects, should be reassessed on a case-by-case basis. It is important when erecting zip walls to consider that access paths, fire exits, and paths of egress are not obstructed. In case of emergency situations such as fire, urgent patient relocation and other factors, we also ensure that we can dismantle a zip walled area within seconds to guarantee unimpeded access.
When work is completed, a construction clean is conducted. We then notify the onsite cleaning staff who complete a clinical clean of the space, ensuring the area is clear of debris and left thoroughly sanitised prior to handover.
We also work closely with IMPS (Infection Management Prevention Services) to coordinate and receive advice on establishing requirements. Once drafted, our methodology is reviewed by IMPS to ensure our process is inline with the requirements in place within that area.
When completing works within a clinical environment, I always consider that everything we do should assist and not obstruct – ensuring ‘business as usual’ is a key focus. This leads me to the importance in minimising clinical impact.
Clinical impact is the effect our works can have on staff and patients within a clinical setting – this can extend from disruptive noises, isolation of smoke detectors, dust and debris through to works conducted in theatres and high-use spaces. This is a critical factor that I take strongly into consideration when planning and scheduling works.
An example may involve the diagnosis and repair of a leak situated behind a Drug Room. This requires thorough coordination with the wards prior to commencement of works to ensure opportunity and notice is given for the removal of required medicine and equipment – this is essential in guaranteeing continued sterilisation of this space throughout the works. In some instances, this is not possible, so safe dual-access is coordinated between clinical staff and our Project Management team.
Isolating smoke detectors can also pose great risk to staff and patients if not conducted correctly. This process can leave an area vulnerable to fire risk and should always be planned and meticulously executed to mitigate the risk to all within the immediate area. Our isolation schedules are always communicated and coordinated with the NUMs (Nurse Unit Managers) to minimise the clinical impact of our works.
Overall, the most important factor in scheduling works whilst minimising clinical impact is fluid communication with all relevant parties – including NUMs, Clinical Staff, Project Management and trade staff. Live environments tend to change on a minute-by-minute basis, and it is important to accept and adapt to changes as to not hinder the day-to-day operations of the hospital or medical facility.
By Adrianne Tarres