Countering the contagion

11th of March 2013
Countering the contagion

All hospitals and healthcare settings have risks related to contagion of infectious diseases for patients, hospital staff, as well as cleaning or housekeeping staff, but in a dialysis setting these risks are much bigger. Gary Johns of In Depth Managed Services, looks at the importance of using specialised staff and equipment to comply with international guidelines for cleaning a dialysis centre.

All hospitals and healthcare settings have risks related to contagion of infectious diseases for patients, hospital staff, as well as cleaning or housekeeping staff, but in a dialysis setting these risks are much bigger because renal patients may carry blood borne pathogens that could lead to infection of others.

Renal patients also have an increased risk of getting a healthcare-associated infection because the dialysis process requires frequent use of catheters or needles to access the bloodstream and the patients have weakened immune systems, which increases their risk for infection.

The risk of contracting MRSA, Hepatitis B and HIV are the biggest concerns in this type of environment. Microorganisms that could cause disease are known to survive on inanimate ‘touch’ surfaces for extended periods of time. For example - bed rails, over-the-bed trays, call buttons and bathroom hardware.

Contract cleaners in a dialysis environment therefore have to be highly specialised to ensure they comply with standard guidelines for infection control in healthcare environments, as well as specific guidelines for dialysis centres in the relevant country.

Numerous guidelines on prevention of healthcare associated infections have been developed by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and by other national or regional bodies in European countries.

However, there are not yet any clear pan-European recommendations, which means the CDC guidelines for prevention of infection within a dialysis centre environment is often referred to in a European context.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the CDC, hand washing is the most important measure to prevent contaminant transmission in a healthcare environment. When to wear gloves and when to perform hand hygiene is therefore the first priority for everyone to be aware of, including cleaning operatives, who enter these areas.

In the case of patients with severely compromised immune systems such as renal patients, the risk of infection is very high and the WHO (Prevention of Hospital-Acquired Infections – a practical guide) recommends hand and forearm washing with a good antiseptic scrub (contact three to five minutes), followed by drying with sterile disposable towels.

Alternatively, surgical disinfection procedures are recommended by rubbing including  simple hand wash and drying followed by two applications of hand disinfectant, then rubbing to dry for the duration of contact defined by the product.

Disposable gloves are recommended for cleaning staff in high risk areas such as isolation units, according to the Guide to the Elimination of Infections in Hemodialysis, published in 2010 by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).

Hand hygiene

Hand washing is the most important measure, but improperly cleaned and disinfected surfaces can be an almost unnoticeable infection transmission route.

The first step is routine cleaning to ensure the environment is visibly clean and free from dust and soil, according to guidelines for prevention of hospital acquired infections by the World Health Organisation - Europe – published in 2002.

APIC guidelines also state that the process of physical or mechanical cleaning of environmental surfaces using detergent (soap), water, and friction is the critical step required prior to surface disinfection.

Disinfection of the environmental surface is the next step and almost seen as a somewhat redundant step to ensure comprehensive removal of pathogens on surfaces.

A hospital grade disinfectant is recommended by the International Federation for Infection Control – for all patient areas, with special attention to high touch items or surfaces likely to be contaminated with blood or body fluids.

The environmental surfaces in hemodialysis settings at highest risk of transmitting germs are described using different terms. From the perspective of the patient, the term ‘patient zone’ is used to refer to the surfaces, which the patient can touch, or can touch the patient.

From the dialysis staff perspective, the term ‘high touch surfaces’ is used to describe surfaces which are frequently touched by staff. Cleaning and disinfection of these surfaces (patient zone/high touch surfaces) should be performed between all patient treatments.

Separate cleaning equipment is recommended for each patient station and a colour-coded system is also often used for different areas such as the kitchen, bathroom and general areas.
Disposable products, including gloves, aprons and mop heads, are recommended in isolation units.

There are certain principles that are recommended to optimise environmental cleaning in healthcare settings, including dialysis centres:

• Store cleaner/disinfectant separately from skin antiseptics/patient supplies
• Perform hand hygiene before and after cleaning the patient station
• Use gloves when using cleaner/disinfectants
• Use one set of cleaning cloths or disposable germicidal wipes for each patient station
• Use disposable microfibre cloths/ mops
• Clean all frequently touched or ‘high touch’ surfaces in the ‘patient zone’ between patient treatments
• Clean the top of an object first and work down to avoid soiling surfaces cleaned
• Fold the cleaning cloth in a series of squares to provide a number of potential cleaning surfaces
• Replace cloth as needed. More than one cloth may be required for a patient station
• Never use the same cleaning cloth for more than one patient unit
• Never re-dip used cloth into clean disinfectant solution.
At the end of the day, additional cleaning functions in dialysis centres should include:
• Wet mop the floor.
• Clean patient/staff bathrooms and restock paper products/hand
hygiene supplies
• Check and refill all hand hygiene product dispensers in nursing stations and at patient stations (soap, paper towels, lotion, and alcohol-based hand sanitiser).

On a routine basis, walls and high dusting should be performed.

Waste generated by the dialysis facility could be contaminated and disposable items should be placed in bags thick enough to prevent leakage.


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