21 Oct 5 Benefits of Hiring an Infection Preventionist During Healthcare Facility Construction
Healthcare technology is continually changing; it’s becoming more powerful and precise in modern times. As life-saving machinery evolves, healthcare facilities have to adapt to accommodate newer, possibly larger, equipment. Understanding the best practices for healthcare facility construction is a major requirement for any medical facility management team. Consider consulting with an infection preventionist before your next construction project.
What Are Infection Preventionists?
Hospitals and other healthcare facilities are complex, with many opportunities for microorganism transmission to immunocompromised individuals. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that one in 25 patients in America contracts a healthcare-associated infection (HAI) each day. Illnesses can spread in hospitals and healthcare facilities in a few manners, including:
- Airborne transmission
- Waterborne transmission
- Through contact transmission or touch
The risk for cross-contamination and HAIs continues to grow as construction efforts become more common in modern facilities. Healthcare facility managers should consult with an infection preventionist to mitigate any issues that may harm a patient or staff member.
Just like medical professionals, contractors, and other construction workers are experts in their field. However, they don’t often have to work in close proximity to sick patients with serious illnesses or potentially immunocompromised patients. Including an infection preventionist at the beginning of a construction project allows for alternate perspectives that consider both clinical and renovation requirements.
Responsibilities of an Infection Preventionist
The transmission of bacteria and other pathogens is prevalent since many pathways, reservoirs, and sources exist throughout hospitals and healthcare facilities. When hospitals and other healthcare facilities hire an infection preventionist, the risk of patient infection from human and external sources is minimized. Some responsibilities of an infection control specialist during construction projects include:
- Conduct on-site infection control risk assessments
- Move at-risk patients away from the affected area
- Work with the construction contractor to create alternate pathways for patients and staff
- Educate contractors/construction workers on minimizing airborne pathogen transmission
- Consider the HVAC (heating/ventilation/air conditioning) systems and recommend alternatives if necessary
- Provide guidance for regular disinfection procedures during construction
Repairing, renovating, or entirely reconstructing an existing healthcare facility can be a tricky task. There are many opportunities for infection to spread through the air, water, and human contact. Infection preventionists are experts in minimizing these risks.
Why Hire an Infection Preventionist During Construction?
Hiring an infection preventionist during your next healthcare facility construction project can benefit patients, staff, and management. Let’s take a look at five benefits of including an infection preventionist on your next project:
1. Protect Your Patients and Staff
One of the primary responsibilities of an infection preventionist during construction projects is minimizing the risk to patients and staff. They do this in several ways:
- Determining the risk to patients and staff based on the project scope
- Recommending strategies to mitigate risk during construction and renovation
- Monitoring the construction site to ensure implementation of appropriate precautions
- Educating staff of the telltale signs of potential infection control breaches during the project
- Help to determine the best time of day or days of the week that project phases causing a lot of noise or vibration should occur
By taking these safety precautions, hospital management keeps both patients and staff safe while construction continues in the facility. Lower the risk of HAIs in your healthcare facility when you work with an infection preventionist on construction projects.
2. Stay on Schedule
Imagine you didn’t consult with an infection preventionist while in the planning stage of a construction project, and well into the project the contractor’s air pressure system backs up into the building HVAC system. Now, all the air emitted to your patients is at risk of being contaminated with potentially pathogen-containing dust from the worksite. Fixing this issue could take hours or even days, putting you way behind schedule and increasing the potential risk of infection for patients.
With an infection preventionist involved in planning and overseeing the construction process, the chances of issues like this arising lessen significantly. Your project can stay on schedule, and patients remain safe and secure, away from the worksite.
3. Inform Contractors
Typically, construction workers complete jobs while residents are not around. However, it’s impossible to remove people from the equation when doing construction work on healthcare facilities. Patients and staff must remain on-site and able to work while renovations take place.
Contractors work with infection preventionists to understand how their work can impact patient and staff health in the facility. Frequently, infection preventionists oversee each day’s work to ensure proper safety measures are taken and educate construction personnel about best practices throughout the process. It’s a mutually beneficial partnership since it covers contractors from liability and keeps patients from possibly coming in contact with harmful substances.
4. Unique Perspectives
Another essential part of the infection preventionist’s expertise is understanding how healthcare facilities and construction operations work in synchronization with each other. Infection control specialists offer a unique perspective, considering construction processes and healthcare facilities procedures, creating the best possible plan of action to complete the construction project while minimizing contamination risks.
5. Reduce Liabilities
Once work on your healthcare facility construction project is complete, you can breathe a sigh of relief, at least for a moment. Although you hope to hire competent contractors, there are some occasions where an inadequate end result can cause future liability for the facility.
If the construction crew leaves behind harmful debris, dust, or other substances that you are unaware of and a patient gets sick from it, you can be held liable in some states. An infection preventionist oversees all aspects of the construction process, ensuring that best practices are used for construction, clean up, and waste disposal.
To keep up with ever-changing healthcare technology, more and more facilities are undergoing “facelifts.” While the idea of filling your facility with state of the art equipment is enticing, a construction or renovation project is a significant undertaking, especially when there are at-risk patients involved.
Utilize the expertise of an infection preventionist during your next healthcare facility construction project to reduce the prevalence of HAIs and ensure the health and safety of your patients and staff are protected. Stay on schedule and out of lengthy litigation processes thanks to the protective measures put in place by such experts.
Once construction ends, your patients can benefit significantly from newly available technologies and hopefully improve their health. But first, hire an infection preventionist to monitor and assess progress, address problems, and protect patients while you renovate your healthcare facility. Save time, resources, and possibly lives when you contact an infection control professional to create, implement, and monitor an effective infection prevention and control program.