Optimal IAQ is critical for Healthcare Facilities
Indoor air and environmental quality are the cornerstones that support both building and occupant health. It is crucial for healthcare facilities such as hospitals, outpatient centers and primary care providers to include building health in preventative maintenance plans. Sometimes it can be a matter of life and death.
How do healthcare facilities differ from other types of occupied spaces?
Simply put, people go to these buildings to be treated for illness or trauma and expect a clean, safe environment. But that’s not always the case.
What is the number one factor that leads to deferred maintenance in healthcare facilities?
Time. Hospitals are in a constant state of operation 24 hours a day and 7 days week, including holidays. Sometimes it can be difficult to thoroughly address IAQ/IEQ issues when a building is in a constant state of operation. Downtime is a luxury that facility managers would love to have.
Nearly every aspect of building health can be attributed to three areas: Hygiene of the occupied space, the HVAC system, and the water system. Compromising any one or combination of these can have severe impacts to patients and staff.
What can be done to improve these key areas?
Most hospitals have Infection Control and Risk Management departments whose sole job is to monitor and prevent healthcare acquired infections (HAI) in patients. They oversee the disinfection of the patient rooms, surgical suites, common areas, and more. They work hard to ensure the janitorial and maintenance teams are performing their tasks at the highest level. There are also strict guidelines and regulations that must be must be adhered to in order to keep occupants safe.
Monitoring in healthcare facilities rightly focuses on pathogens and the associated vectors that can contribute to an infection. Infection control generally relies on in-house clinical laboratory analysis to be vigilant against HAI. When it comes to the indoor environment at large there are many other factors that can affect building hygiene. That’s why it’s important to investigate the building envelope for deficiencies that can degrade building health. This is a job best left to industrial hygienists and engineers who are like a doctor for buildings. They can collect data and samples to analyze building performance related to air pressure, ventilation, humidity, thermal comfort, particulates and biological contaminants. Samples collected from healthcare facilities are sent to an environmental laboratory for specialized analysis. Building Sciences and Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory at Pure Air Control Services Inc. works closely with healthcare facilities Infection Control and Risk Managers to ensure optimal building health.
Preventative maintenance focused on building hygiene is another matter. All healthcare facilities provide a high level of topical cleaning in their buildings. This is especially true of surgical suites. However, there are additional methods of disinfection that go beyond the conventional procedures.
Building Remediation Sciences at Pure Air Control Services Inc. provides a hydrogen peroxide and silver-based disinfection service called PURE-Decon. It sprays a dry mist that permeates areas of the room never touched by conventional methods. PURE-Decon is 99.9% effective against C-Diff and other harmful bacteria. Building Health Check LLC, also sells the PURE-Decon system should a healthcare facility decide to use it as a regular tool in their disinfection protocols.
The HVAC System
This is the respiratory system of a building. It is responsible for moving fresh air throughout the building envelope while at the same time recycling the old air. The air handing units (AHU) are like the lungs drawing air in and pushing it out. All the air conveyed through a building is affect by the cleanliness of this system. Therefore, it is crucial the HVAC is kept in good working order and is routinely, thoroughly cleaned. This means regularly checking and replacing filters, as well as hygienically cleaning the AHU and corresponding ductwork. If the filters and evaporator coils become fouled the efficiency of the AHU will decrease. This can cause humidity in the unit to rise. Since the AHU is a cool and dark place, increased humidity can create the perfect environment for bacteria and fungus to thrive. Dust comprised of dead human skin cells is food source for bacteria. This can produce ammonia like odors can be spread through the building and affect occupants. The AHU can also spread bacteria, fungus, and other particulates from dirty ducts throughout the building which can trigger allergies or worse.
Building Remediation Sciences at Pure Air Control Services Inc. provides hygienic solutions to each of these issues. PURE-Duct is a detail oriented, fully contained, hygienic duct cleaning procedure that is well suited for healthcare facilities. PURE-Steam hygienic HVAC/Coil cleaning is Green Clean Institute certified process that uses high temperature and low-pressure steam to disinfect an AHU. Not only does it improve the cleanliness of the unit it also restores it to peak efficiencies for greater energy savings. HVAC New Life is a total restoration of an AHU. It incorporates the PURE-Steam process, repaints the unit with PURE-Coat, and refinishes the drain pan with PURE-Liner 2.0. These highly specialized coatings are antimicrobial, corrosion resistant, low VOC and flame retardant. Optionally, the fiberglass insulation of the AHU can be replaced with PURE-Cell zero porosity insultation. These hygienic HVAC solutions ensure optimal building health, occupant comfort, and energy efficiency.
The Water System
Most people think of this in terms of fresh water, grey water(sinks) and sewage(toilets), but in a large facility like a hospital it also includes the chilled water system utilized by the HVAC system. Any or all of these components can affect indoor environmental quality. The Department of Health and Human Services along with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a mandate in 2017 that stated all healthcare facilities need to have a water management plan in place that includes Legionella testing. Legionella bacteria causes Pontiac Fever or Legionnaires Disease. These bacteria when present in the water system can quickly spread to create an outbreak. When it gets into the potable water system it can be spread through shower heads and sinks, then breathed by occupants. Likewise, if in the chilled water or HVAC system it can thrive in the cooling towers or drain pans within the AHU. As previously mentioned, most healthcare facilities have clinical laboratories that analyze samples drawn from human patients. This is helpful to identify Legionnaires Disease in a patient, but not Legionella in water samples collected from various points throughout the water system. Environmental Diagnostics Laboratory is a CDC Elite Program and NY DoH ELAP lab that specializes in Legionella testing and analysis. They provide rapid response with their PCR analysis, and also incorporate the more traditional culture and non-culture methods. EDLab can test and report on other waterborne organisms as well.
Well-being for Healthcare Facilities
Indoor air and environmental quality should be an ongoing, proactive, focus for healthcare facilities. Close monitoring of IAQ works hand in hand with Infection Control to ensure the best outcome possible for patients in need of healing and for staff that needs to stay healthy as caregivers. Having a trusted and experienced partner like Pure Air Control Services, Inc. can relieve some of the burden of the facility manager in taking care of this critical component in a healthcare building.
For more information on these IAQ services or if you have an immediate need please contact us at 1-800-422-7873.