Everyone who enters a hospital notices the cleanliness of the building. What they don’t see matters even more: how sanitary it is.
Many visitors, hospital employees, medical personnel and patients circulate in hospitals every day. Some patients are in fragile health. Others have infectious medical conditions. Visitors, employees and medical personnel may all carry diseases into the hospitals.
Every year, more than two hundred thousand Canadians pick up infections in hospitals. About 8,000 of them die from these infections.
Hospital cleaning is the first line of defence against the spread of infectious disease.
hospital cleaning services
Let’s look at the three different kinds of cleaning in a hospital:
- Nursing staff and support workers keep patients clean.
- Doctors and nurses look after sterilizing their medical instruments.
- Hospital cleaners clean and disinfect the interior of the hospital building and the furniture.
There is an important difference between cleaning and disinfecting (or sanitizing). Cleaning means to remove dirt and allergens. Disinfecting means to kill bacteria and other agents that cause disease. Disinfecting is what controls and breaks the chain of infection.
How do you keep a hospital clean?
Hospital cleaning services must clean and disinfect every corner of the building. No one wants diseases such as norovirus, coronavirus and C. difficile to get started or spread in the building.
Hospital cleaners clean and disinfect:
- public areas (entrances, halls, waiting rooms, meeting rooms and offices)
- medical areas (operating rooms, examination rooms, labs)
- patient rooms
Inside each room, hospital cleaners must:
- clean the windows, walls, ceilings and light fixtures; and
- wash and sanitize furniture, surfaces, railings, floors and carpets.
Cleaners remove trash and replace garbage bags. In bathrooms, they clean and sanitize walls, mirrors, sinks, toilets, urinals, bathtubs, showers and floors. In kitchens, they scour and disinfect walls, counters, meal preparation surfaces and floors.
One critical task is cleaning up bodily fluids, saline and other difficult-to-clean substances. These substances can cause infection or have other serious effects on the body.
Another important task is removing biological hazards such as syringes, sharps and bodily waste.
Hospital cleaners must:
- Follow Occupational Health and Safety rules for proper cleaning and sanitation.
- Understand the causes of cross-contamination and how to prevent it.
- Have training in the proper disposal of contaminants such as blood-borne pathogens.
- Use HEPA vacuum filters to contain allergens and dust.
- Use hospital-grade disinfectants and sanitizers. They must know how long it takes a disinfectant to disinfect a surface.
Cleaning products and processes used in hospitals
Hospital cleaners must use hospital grade disinfectants approved by Health Canada. It’s essential to follow instructions on the product label or Material Safety Data Sheets.
Health Canada approves the use of bleach, isopropyl alcohol and hydrogen peroxide.
- Bleach – The smell of bleach reassures some patients that the room is clean and sanitized. However, some workers and patients find the smell of bleach irritating. Dilute bleach only with water; other compounds can create deadly gases. Open a window when cleaning with bleach or put on a fan. Limit the time you are breathing in the fumes.
- Sodium Hypochlorite – Many hospital cleaners use wipes that contain sodium hypochlorite. Sodium hypochlorite is a form of bleach made from water and salt. If it leaves a residue on a surface, you can wipe it up with a clean, damp cloth.
Other effective processes for sanitizing that minimize the use of chemicals are:
- robotic ultraviolet light
- electrostatic sprayers that mist fine disinfectant
- a ‘spray and vac’ system for cleaning bathrooms. The cleaner sprays down contaminated surfaces without touching them. A wet vacuum then cleans up what has washed down.
Best practices to keep hospital patients and staff safe
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Wear gloves properly. Use the right gloves for the product you are using. Check the safety data sheet or contact the supplier of the gloves. Wash your gloves regularly between cleaning tasks.
- Start at the top of the area to be cleaned and move down.
- Pay attention to frequently-touched areas. Germs can hide on door handles, call bells, bed rails, light switches, sink handles and faucets. Germs also linger on remote controls, phones, chair arm rests, over-bed tables and bedside cabinets.
- Start with clean areas and move to dirty areas, such as bathrooms or the kitchen. Go from the rooms of the healthiest patients to the sickest patients’ rooms and restrooms.
- Limit air pollution. Don’t mix anything but water with bleach. Ensure fresh air circulation when using bleach. Don’t force air out of trash bags when tying them up. Forcing the air out could release biological hazards and bacteria into the air in the room.
- Avoid cross-contamination. Many cleaning tools (e.g. mops and rags) and processes can actually spread contaminants. It’s better to use disposable wipes, or spray and vacuum and then dispose of contaminants. Use wipes in only one room. Use as many wipes as you need but do not take them to another room. Throw wipes and gloves that you have used in a patient’s room into the garbage before moving to another room.
- Get rid of contaminated materials safely. This includes soiled linen, biological materials and dirty cleaning fluids. There is a high risk of contamination when you remove these. Handle bags of soiled bed clothes and linens with care. Don’t throw them around as this could release bacteria and biological hazards.
- Limit chemical exposure. Avoid abrasive chemicals that can be hard on your skin and irritate patients’ nasal passages.
Special considerations with hospital cleaning
Hospital cleaning is closely scrutinized. If you have employees, they must all have training in:
- infection control
- cleaning methods
- safe handling and use of equipment and chemicals
- occupational health and safety
As well, your employees must be trustworthy and respectful of patient privacy.
How much do hospitals pay for cleaning services?
Every hospital is different. The same is true for hospital cleaning contracts. Hospital cleaning services range from $25 to $75 per hour or $.06 to $.30 per square foot.
The charge varies widely depending on the hospital size, location and cleaning needs. Consider these factors when setting up a contract.
Hospital cleaning carries a lot of responsibility. To heal, patients need a hygienic environment. Cleaners who use approved materials and follow best practices can help prevent the spread of infection. Maintaining a clean hospital is vital for keeping communities healthy.