Infection prevention and control has always been a key concern for hospital leaders and staff. However, in the wake of a pandemic, infection management shoots to the top of every priority list.
There’s simply no time to waste – the illness must be stopped in its tracks before it rips through your entire facility.
All of your routines and practices will be optimised to stop the spread of infection, even if that makes day-to-day life more cumbersome. After all, the lives of your patients and staff depend on it, and there’s no greater responsibility than that.
However, even if an infection turns your hospital upside down overnight, some procedures cannot be allowed to waver; it only causes greater problems over time. Maintenance of your sluice room machinery is one of them.
You may think that having external maintenance staff in your hospital is a risk when you are trying to stop an infection spreading. However, the opposite is true.
Not only are service engineers equipped with exceptional PPE to protect themselves and others, but they are also trained in the latest infection control protocols (remember, service engineers visit all kinds of hospitals – including those which treat infectious diseases as part of their everyday).
Perhaps you have other concerns. Maybe you feel that, during an outbreak, you’re simply too busy for service visits - or regard your service contract to be a costly burden, when the infection has already forced a number of additional expenditures.
Here’s five reasons why hospital sluice room servicing is now more important than ever.
1. Machine breakdowns will only make a difficult situation worse.
Many infectious illnesses, such as coronavirus and clostridium difficile, can be spread via human waste (alongside a number of other secretions, depending on the type of bacteria).
Your sluice room is where the infection can be nipped in the bud. Safely contained in a pulp bedpan or reusable equivalent, waste is processed through a macerator or bedpan washer to ensure that it’s hygienically disposed of, without the bacteria travelling further.
It’s easy to take your sluice machines for granted when they’re working well, but if you don’t keep up with your maintenance requirements, the chance of experiencing a breakdown increases significantly.
Before long, you could find yourself falling foul of an entirely preventable fault. With your machine unable to function until an engineer makes an emergency visit, your clinicians will need to dispose of waste another way – be it travelling further across the hospital to find another machine, bagging and binning, or washing reusable bedpans by hand.
All of these methods carry undesirable infection control risks. If you’re in the midst of an outbreak already, they are truly dangerous and could cause the spread of the infection to rapidly accelerate.
Staying on top of your sluice room servicing will help to prevent maintenance issues and ensure that you don’t suffer the consequences of unnecessary downtime.
2. Machines that are poorly maintained may be performing below the required standard.
We’ve already addressed that, if you skip your service visits, your machinery could break down. However, downtime isn’t the only maintenance issue that could cause you problems.
Machinery which is poorly maintained can experience performance issues, such as not hitting the required temperature to kill bacteria or failing to process waste fully during each cycle. These issues would be easily spotted during a maintenance visit, but it may be some time before your clinicians recognise a fault during regular use.
This delay could result in any number of invisible infection control issues, such as bedpans which aren’t properly disinfected, or pipes which are slowly blocking. The safest action is always to ensure that your machinery is professionally inspected, regularly.
3. Servicing will affect the lifetime value of your machines.
Capital equipment is a big investment and it’s only natural that you will want to keep these machines for as long as possible, without replacement.
A well-maintained sluice machine will serve you for many years, providing true value for money. However, if you cut back on service visits, you could find yourself paying out for preventable, emergency repairs; in the long run, this costs far more than a service contract, even before you consider the cost of infection risk.
In addition, a poorly maintained machine is likely to need a full replacement far sooner than one which is well looked after. Although you may wish to make short-term savings during an outbreak of infection, it really does pay to look ahead.
4. Your CQC inspection could be at stake.
When dealing with an outbreak of infection, the last thing you’ll want is to deal with is a surprise visit from the CQC on top. However, they’re a necessary part of keeping healthcare safe for all, and you could find them waiting at reception at any time.
Hopefully, your good management of the crisis will mean that your CQC rating will not suffer. However, if you have been avoiding maintenance of your machines, you could come unstuck.
The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014: Regulation 15 states:
“The intention of this regulation is to make sure that the premises where care and treatment are delivered are clean, suitable for the intended purpose, maintained and where required, appropriately located, and that the equipment that is used to deliver care and treatment is clean, suitable for the intended purpose, maintained, stored securely and used properly.”
Maintenance is part of your commitment to the Health and Social Care Act. Therefore, when you are inspected by the CQC, it will form part of their assessment.
It’s in your best interest to have a service contract in place, which will arm you with evidence of well-maintained equipment.
5. Save day-to-day costs.
During an outbreak of infection, you could find that your budget is stretched even further than usual.
Extra equipment may be required to treat a higher number of patients; or you may have patients which require more demanding care.
If the infection has hit your staff, extra cover will add to your costs, as well as the expense of more intensive cleaning routines.
By keeping your sluice machines well maintained, they will remain efficient and only use a small amount of energy, water, and consumable products. In turn, this will benefit the day-to-day running costs of your facility.
Sluice room servicing is an essential part of maintaining your equipment and ensuring it will always serve you and your patients well. During an outbreak of infection, you will need this security more than ever.
DDC Dolphin provide a range of machine care and maintenance options that will save you time and money, while also helping to keep your patients and clinicians safe from illnesses such as coronavirus, clostridium difficile and e-coli.