Healthcare - the sharp end of cleaning

27th of November 2015
Healthcare - the sharp end of cleaning

The concept of hygiene for health is never more relevant or more critical than in the healthcare sector itself. Hospitals are the most demanding of cleaning contracts, where the highest of hygiene standards must be consistently maintained.

How has this sector progressed in recent years, what lessons have been learned and what are the key challenges to be faced in the future? Kelvin Eyu, chief operating officer at ISS World Services in Singapore, which holds an 80 per cent share in the local healthcare cleaning market, talks to ECJ.

Cleaning in hospitals is one of the most demanding and exacting areas of the sector, with expectations in terms of hygiene standards, cost-efficiency and transparency increasing continuously. What are the most important developments affecting service providers?

According to Eyu, one of the most important factors was the introduction in acute hospitals some years ago of the Joint Commission International (JCI) standards of patient-centred care and safety. “This was seen as the ‘gold’ standard for operations excellence within the healthcare environment,” he explains. “These US-based standards also cover the requirements of outsourced partners including, but not limited to, competency, risk management, cleaning methods, safety, emergency response and infection control etc.”

Other trends that have influenced healthcare service provision include the rising cost of labour, labour shortage and ageing population pushing healthcare to spend more – while the share of taxpaying citizens is decreasing. “This means, healthcare customers are hungry for productivity initiatives,” continues Eyu. “Solutions such as mechanisation, automation, e-solutions, job redesign and work process re-engineering are expected as part of our value proposition.”

Business Continuity Management (BCM) is defined as a “holistic management process that identifies potential threats to an organisation and the impacts to business operations those threats, if realised, might cause.

It provides a framework for building organisational resilience with the capability of an effective response that safeguards the interests of its key stakeholders, reputation, brand and value-creating activities”. This is gaining ground in the healthcare arena, says Eyu,  “in view of the perpetual threat of disease outbreak and environmental threat, eg, flood, fire etc.

“Customers are particularly interested in alternative sources of manpower support should there be quarantine imposed.”

And we are also witnessing increased centralisation of hospitals – certainly in parts of Europe – to create much larger sites. “This sometimes leads to insourcing of cleaning tasks, because it makes sense as far as the hospital is concerned to have its own cleaning team,” Pernille Storm Larsen, Head of Cleaning Excellence at ISS Denmark, explains.

For cleaning service contractors then, the environment has become ever more challenging so how has the sector responded in order to rise to these new demands? One of the greatest investments has been in human resources – in the hiring of professionals such as nurses and registered safety officers – and in programmes in the fields of training and development, health and safety, and infection control.

Pernille Storm Larsen explains some of the other initiatives ISS has been involved with in order to offer better services to its healthcare clients. “We have been working with supplier partners such as Diversey to introduce new disinfection kit focused on containment and fast response in case of biohazard risks. We have also converted manual tracking into automated methods using RFID, PDA or tablets to reduce our reliance on labour to carry out checking and tracking.”

“Sometimes unconventional cleaning methods are being used, such as using hydrogen peroxide instead of manpower to disinfect a patient room with contagious disease,” says Kelvin Eyu of
ISS Singapore.

And to accommodate the changing nature of the cleaning workforce ISS now favours icon-based communication over text. “This is because we have to cater for many different languages and cultural diversity,” explains Eyu. “And the fact we have an increasingly ageing workforce has led us to purchase lighter, cordless or two-in-one machinery.”

Large service providers like ISS are even achieving ISO standards on Business Continuity Management and implementing the system in the hospitals where they provide services – ensuring they are complying with hygiene standards and putting control systems into place.

In a changing global marketplace facilities service providers in healthcare must adapt to meet the needs of their clients if they are to survive and prosper. “Customers are expecting economies of scale, cost-effective solutions, higher and more professional levels of service delivery, traceability, and increased transparency in costing,” Eyu says.

“They are also testing cleaning employees’ knowledge more and more, questioning them on exactly how much they know about hygiene. In general there is much more quality control (both self-regulation and third party monitoring).”

Healthcare clients are also no longer happy with the traditional way of doing things, they expect to see ongoing innovation from their service suppliers. “For example they are eager to see us at ISS use the company’s global platform to deliver a measurable differentiation,” Eyu points out.

Finally, there is an increasing trend towards empowering the individual cleaning employee. “We aim to ensure they act with competence and responsibility in the actually health/hygiene/risk situation instead of just ‘following the rules’,” concludes Eyu.


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