Bedpan washer disinfectors underpin the infection control strategy of numerous care homes and hospitals. But what makes their sanitising technique so effective – and why?
If reusable bedpans are your facility’s toileting aid of choice (as opposed to those made from disposable pulp), you’ll no doubt be familiar with washer disinfectors. They’re responsible for sanitising used bedpans and are critical in the fight against HCAIs.
A washer disinfector’s ability to kill dangerous pathogens is reliant on thermal disinfection. Without it, a washer disinfector would simply be rinsing away the debris on each bedpan; this would serve no real purpose in keeping patients and clinicians safe from infections such as MRSA, E. coli and Norovirus.
How Does Thermal Disinfection Work?
Thermal disinfection is achieved using a moist heat which is held at a specific temperature, for a precise period of time.
When steam is produced and the temperature maintained a for pre-determined amount of time, it will kill the bacteria on any surface it touches, as the live proteins can’t survive against this kind of heat exposure.
How Does A Washer Disinfector Apply Thermal Disinfection?
Once loaded, a washer disinfector cycle can take as little as 6 minutes from start to finish; thermal disinfection is extremely quick to act.
Fixed and rotating wash nozzles are strategically placed to direct water towards the bedpans, with a display panel on the front of the machine to show that the steam is being heated and held at 80°C. This is the temperature required to kill the bacteria from human waste, ensuring that no pathogens will continue to exist on the bedpans’ surfaces once the cycle ends.
To finish the process, the washer disinfector dries the bedpans, to make sure that they’re ready to go back into circulation as soon as they’re removed from the machine.
What Are the Advantages of Thermal Disinfection?
Thermal disinfection will not only prevent cross-contamination and improve infection control compliance, but it does so with impressive speed – it only takes a few minutes. Thermal disinfection will also kill a multitude of common microorganisms, making it extremely well-suited to a medical setting where different kinds of bacteria are prevalent.
Unlike other methods, thermal disinfection also won’t leave behind any chemical residues – so you needn’t worry about the safety of your patients when they come to use the bedpans, or that of your clinicians when they must handle the items straight out of the machine.
Can Thermal Disinfection Be Achieved Without A Washer Disinfector?
Although technically possible, it’s extremely difficult to ascertain that thermal disinfection has been successful if you’re using a manual method. This is why washing bedpans by hand is fundamentally unsafe; although you could heat water and create steam, there’s no way to guarantee that the steam is hot enough to kill bacteria, or that it’s been at the right temperature for a sufficient length of time.
Even if these two variables are spontaneously achieved, producing steam in the open air – as opposed to safely encasing it in a machine – gives bacteria another opportunity to spread.
It’s important to remember that ‘cleaning’ and ‘disinfection’ are very different processes. Cleaning removes germs from surfaces, but disinfection will kill germs completely; washing bedpans by hand is merely a cleaning process and won’t provide the same level of protection against infection that a washer disinfector will.
In reality, there’s only one sensible way to sanitise a used bedpan that can’t be macerated – and that’s to thermally disinfect it using a washer disinfector.
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