Much has been written lately about the role healthcare interiors play in supporting best practices to prevent hospital infections. An article written by Amy Eagle in the May 2013 issue of Health Facilities Management magazine highlights many of these enhancements, including the need for holistic planning from designers and the environmental services department about the types of materials and surfaces to be installed and how they should be cleaned. There are today many antimicrobial and waterproof surfaces available to minimize the spread of pathogens. There are waterless hand sanitizers and wall-mounted monitors that remind healthcare providers to clean their hands.
But there is another place where infection prevention needs attention — and that’s in soiled linen rooms where large concentrations of particulates are aerosolized. These particulates become airborne when linen is moved or agitated. Soiled linen can contribute to the spread of pathogens, which are a hospital-acquired infection risk. Soiled linen is often transported in carts through crowded corridors, in and out of elevators. These approaches are mostly manual and costly in labor, facility maintenance and potentially add risk to the health of an already compromised hospital population.
A number of hospitals are choosing an automated method that diverts trash, recycling and soiled linen from the floors through a sealed, dedicated pathway to a central collection point. These automated systems reduce staff and patient exposure time to dirty materials on average by 80%. These systems should be considered best practices, reduce exposure to odorous waste and potentially infectious soiled linen, and save millions in operating costs over the life of the facility.
Infection control happens at many levels in a hospital, from procedural protocol, to interior designs that reduce the spread of microorganisms, to what’s hiding in storage rooms and carts. Hospital administrators, facility managers and architects should weigh the benefits and risks of waste and soiled linen logistics when planning their hospital of the future.