Floors have been given a lot of attention for their appearance, how they make customers and visitors feel, and for their cleanliness. But in any healthcare setting, floors mean a lot more. They are the one surface on which people - right from the staff, to the doctors, to patients and even visitors - tread; and gurneys, wheelchairs and trolleys are rolled over these very floors. Contamination from different sources is found on hospital floors, and this is potentially one of the main sources of healthcareassociated infections (HAI).
In fact, a couple of years ago, Infection Control Today magazine published an article highlighting a study, which suggested that the floor may be an overlooked source of HAIs and may help to spread pathogens such as Clostridium difficile and MRSA though contact with high-touch objects. HAIs are usually linked to more invasive hospital equipment and the air. Hence, the consistent focus on disinfecting instruments and having ‘clean rooms’. Floors are potentially the most heavily contaminated parts of a hospital. But, as the study found, they aren’t considered a high-touch point.
But they should be. Instruments and other high-touch objects like call buttons or blood pressure cuffs, etc., frequently come in contact with the floor - and these can spread pathogens from the floor to the hand and so on. Of course, there is no denying that hospital floors are cleaned very often; but, research has shown that despite cleaning removing 80% contamination and disinfecting going up to 90% removal, recontamination - in most cases - returns within an hour!
Points to consider
So, how does one prevent floor contamination from becoming an HAI. It all boils down to the floor cleaning schedule followed by the housekeeping department.
Step 1: Entrance mats. Sturdy entrance matting will help remove almost 50% of debris, studies show. They are ideal to control as much soiling as possible. But these mats must be changed regularly to prevent counter intuitive results.
Step 2: Daily cleaning must be done to remove dry soil and dust and debris. A HEPA filter vacuum can help in carpeted areas.
Step 3: Damp mopping must be done using a proper hospital-grade disinfectant. It helps to know what microbes the disinfectant claims to kill. Moreover, soiled disinfectant solution must be changed in short regular intervals - studies suggest after every 3rd or 4th room.
Step 4: Use the right tools for the right kind of floors. Microfibre is ideal for dry or wet mopping due to its mechanical action. DO NOT use cotton mops! Experts suggest that the chemical for mopping must be neutral with a pH between 6 & 7.
Step 5: Understand the flooring material in your facility. Clean, disinfect and maintain it long-term after understanding how to do so. Most often, solutions are readily available to maintain the durability of floors. Moreover, use the right dilution of chemicals for the right material. One wrong step and you can ruin your entire disinfection process.
Step 6: Invest time in deep cleaning periodically. This can involve scrubbing, polishing floors. It may sound like a luxury task - but polishing prevents cracks and scuffs in the flooring where microbes can potentially live and flourish. In certain flooring types, coating also works well.
Step 7: Understand what kind of floors are used most often and near what areas and design your cleaning schedule around that.
Overall, the aim needs to be for floors to not only be clean and shiny; they also need to be free of potential contamination!