What about the air that we breathe?

Air quality appears to have been virtually ignored in the latest guidelines from The British Standards Institute which has launched its Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 5748 to provide a framework for the planning, application and measurement of cleanliness in hospitals. Cosmetic cleaning of the outside of ventilation grills may look nice but it does not address the very serious, and in some cases fatal, consequences of contaminated air ducts.

Control infection

The warning comes from Ian Wall, a director of Ductbusters, who says: “All initiatives to improve and measure hospital hygiene are clearly to be welcomed however we believe it is a major cause for concern that in such a lengthy and detailed document, the issue of duct cleaning has barely been touched upon. Any medical facility can have the most sparkling floors, surfaces and equipment imaginable, but if the ventilation ducts are not clean infection will spread.”

Facing challenges

“The challenge hospitals face is that highly infectious diseases like MRSA and Clostridium difficile are not only carried through ventilation systems, but can thrive and feed on flakes of dead dry human skin which is a large component of hospital dust and can build up in ventilation ducts. So however diligent healthcare teams are in cleaning surfaces and equipment within the building, if ducts are not regularly cleaned, the impact on controlling infection of these efforts will be considerably diminished.” 

Dr Ghasson Shabha, a facilities management MSc course leader at the School of Property, Construction and Planning at Birmingham City University and an MRSA project co-coordinator agrees there is a real and urgent need to make regular duct cleaning an essential part of sustained hospital cleaning and maintenance programmes.

Regular cleaning

He said: “MRSA has increasingly become one of the major sources of healthcare-associated infection in hospitals in Britain and a main contributory factor to 100,000 cases per annum. Ducts in hospitals, depending on type and function of rooms, should be cleaned on a three to six monthly basis and filters should be replaced on a regular basis as part of planned preventive maintenance programme.”

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