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The Importance of Housekeeping in Hospitals - Unilever Professional India

The Importance of Housekeeping in Hospitals

The importance of maintaining hygiene in hospitals cannot be overstated. With hundreds of sick and potentially contagious patients being treated daily, hospitals can become breeding grounds for harmful bacteria and viruses. Proper sanitation practices are the first line of defence against these invisible threats.

Housekeeping plays an integral part in this essential process. Housekeepers, whether in-house or agency workers, maintain the cleanliness of healthcare facilities and ensure sterilisation standards are met. Their work directly contributes to patients' and staff's health and safety. 

Unilever Professional are industry leaders in cleanliness, so we understand the hard work hospital housekeepers carry out. We shed light on their critical role and impact on positive patient outcomes.

The Role of Housekeepers in Hospitals

Hospital housekeepers are often called ‘Environmental Services (EVS) Technicians’. This title encapsulates their broad range of responsibilities that go beyond general cleaning. They are custodians of the hospital environment, ensuring that the highest cleanliness, safety, and hygiene standards are maintained.

  • Cleaning patient rooms, hallways, public areas and kitchens.
  • Sterilising equipment and areas as required.
  • Handling biohazard waste and general trash.
  • Maintenance of cleaning equipment and inventory.
  • Specialist cleaning of floor surfaces (often by ‘floor technicians’).
  • Using detergents to wash soiled linens and uniforms (often by ‘laundry attendants’).

EVS technicians are highly trained to work in healthcare environments. They have more specialist tasks as well as general cleaning of surfaces, scrubbing floors, washing walls and ceilings, and dusting equipment. 

They use specially formulated disinfectants to sterilise medical equipment and designated areas, a critical function in preventing the spread of infections. Technicians are often tasked with cleaning up bodily fluids and handling biohazard waste, requiring special training and stringent safety procedures.

Hospital housekeeping is a varied role with diverse responsibilities. The contributions of these EVS Technicians are integral to the overall cleanliness, safety, and efficiency of a hospital. Proper hygiene plays an instrumental role in patient care and recovery.

The Importance of Housekeeping in Healthcare

Preventing Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAIs)

HAIs are infections that patients acquire during their stay in a hospital or other healthcare facility, which were not present at admission. Examples include:

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA): MRSA is a type of bacteria resistant to certain antibiotics. MRSA can cause skin infections, pneumonia, and, in some extreme cases, sepsis.

Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infections (CLABSIs): These are serious infections that occur when bacteria or viruses enter the bloodstream through a central line (a long flexible tube placed in a large vein that can stay there for weeks or months).

Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections (CAUTIs): These infections occur in people with urinary catheters placed in their bladder.

Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia (VAP): This type of lung infection occurs in people who are on ventilators in hospitals.

Surgical Site Infections (SSIs): These are post-surgery infections in the part of the body where the surgery occurred.

HAIs can be life-threatening and add substantial costs to the healthcare system. Housekeepers play an essential role in controlling these infections. Their routine cleaning and sterilisation practices reduce the number of disease-causing organisms in the environment, minimising the risk of patients or staff contracting them.

Patient Comfort and Satisfaction

A sense of comfort and satisfaction can positively influence a patient's overall hospital experience and recovery.

Workplace Safety

The role of housekeeping extends beyond cleanliness and infection control. Regular cleaning and maintenance ensure a safe working environment for healthcare staff. Housekeeping helps prevent accidents, such as slips and falls, by promptly cleaning spills and clearing walkways and floors. In addition, housekeepers help keep potentially hazardous materials safely contained by handling waste disposal.

Creating a Positive Workplace Environment

An often overlooked benefit of good housekeeping is its contribution to creating a positive workplace. Hospitals are high-stress environments, and the cleanliness and orderliness fostered by diligent housekeeping can provide a sense of calm and control. 

The housekeeping department's role extends beyond cleaning - their work contributes to the health, safety, comfort, and satisfaction of everyone in the hospital.

The Consequences of Poor Housekeeping

Increased Risk of Infections

Seven out of every 100 patients in acute-care hospitals in high-income countries will acquire at least one HAI during their stay. On average, one in ten of those affected will die from the HAI.

The most immediate consequence of lax housekeeping is an increased risk of infections. When cleaning and sterilisation protocols are not strictly followed, harmful bacteria and viruses can accumulate, dramatically increasing the risk of patients, visitors, and staff contracting an infection.

This increase in HAIs poses significant health risks, especially to immunocompromised individuals, and adds to healthcare costs. The additional treatment required for these infections can extend hospital stays and increase patient and healthcare facility costs.

Lower Patient Satisfaction

Unkempt conditions in a hospital pose a health risk and considerably lower patient confidence. Dirty surroundings can make patients uncomfortable and anxious, negatively affecting their overall experience and perception of care received. This dissatisfaction can manifest in lower patient satisfaction scores, significantly impacting a hospital's reputation.

In an era where patient reviews and feedback can be widely shared and accessed online, the reputational damage from poor cleanliness and sanitation can be substantial and long-lasting.

Unsafe Working Conditions 

Poor housekeeping can also lead to unsafe working conditions for hospital staff. Cluttered workspaces, dirty surfaces, and improperly disposed waste can increase the risk of accidents and injuries. If not handled correctly, biohazardous waste can pose a severe health risk to the staff.

Maintaining a clean and orderly environment is a basic requirement for workplace safety in any setting. It becomes even more critical where the risk of infection and injury is inherently higher.

Therefore, the importance of good housekeeping extends far beyond appearances; it's a critical factor in maintaining the hospital's safety, efficiency, and reputation.

Upholding Standards in Housekeeping

Regular Training

Housekeeping in healthcare requires specialised knowledge and skills. Regular training for housekeeping staff ensures they can safely clean and sterilise areas and handle biohazard waste. This knowledge is essential in maintaining a clean and safe environment and reducing the risk of hospital-acquired infections.

Regular training also means staff understand the unique challenges and risks associated with different areas within the hospital, from patient rooms to operating theatres. This understanding enables them to perform their duties effectively and safely.

Infection Control Policies

Adherence to infection control policies is another critical aspect of maintaining high housekeeping standards. These policies guide the use of cleaning and disinfecting solutions, the frequency of cleaning, and the methods used for various tasks.

The use of appropriate cleaning solutions is crucial. Different surfaces and types of equipment require different cleaning agents to remove microbes without causing damage. Housekeeping staff must be well-versed in these requirements to ensure effective infection control.

Audits and Quality Checks

Regular audits and quality checks are fundamental to consistently maintaining housekeeping standards. These checks help identify areas for improvement, compliance issues, and training needs.

Audits assess the effectiveness of cleaning protocols, adherence to safety procedures, proper use of personal protective equipment, and the correct handling and disposal of biohazardous waste. The feedback from these audits can be used to make necessary improvements and adjustments to housekeeping protocols.

Investment in Resources

Housekeeping departments can’t operate effectively without adequate investment. An effective housekeeping department needs all the necessary tools and equipment, sufficient cleaning and disinfecting agents, and proper staffing levels. One study found that introducing an additional environmental services technician reduced microbial contamination levels in surgical wards by 32.5% and MRSA infections by 26.6% compared to control wards.

These resources enable the housekeeping staff to perform their duties effectively and maintain the high standards of cleanliness and safety that are critical in healthcare settings.

The Integral Role of Housekeeping in Hospitals

Housekeepers are an essential defence against hospital-acquired infections and play an important role in patient comfort and workplace safety. Their tireless efforts ensure that the hospital environment remains clean, safe, and conducive to healing, which is a task of immeasurable importance.

The work of hospital housekeepers often goes unnoticed or unappreciated, but without the diligence and commitment of these professionals, hospitals would be unable to provide the high standard of care that we have come to expect.

It’s essential to appreciate the crucial role of hospital housekeeping and understand that their work significantly impacts our healthcare experience. Cleanliness is not just about aesthetics; in healthcare, it's a matter of health, safety, and life.

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