Washroom systems for hospitals
07 March 2013
When equipping a hospital washroom, care must be taken to avoid cross contamination between patients while also making the facilities easy to access for people who are frail or ill. And on a tight budget, this can be a major challenge. SCA's Julie Ray looks at the best types of systems to use in a hygienecritical healthcare washroom
Hygiene is important in any washroom environment since there is always a need to minimise the possibility of crosscontamination.
But the risks are arguably greater in a healthcare facility than in other away-from-home washrooms.A higher proportion of washroom visitors in a hospital are likely to be infectious, for example, while others will be in a weakened state and therefore potentially more vulnerable to illness.
It is crucial to provide sufficient supplies of soap, hand towels and toilet paper since hygiene could be compromised if such consumables were allowed to run out. But other considerations need to be taken into account as well.
For example, medical staff need to wash their hands between each patient contact which means they will run the risk of chapped, sore hands.Soaps should therefore be mild and gentle while hand towels should be soft and kind to the hands.
Dispensers should avoid the risk of washroom users coming into contact with the next person's towel or sheet of toilet tissue.Toilets for patients also need to minimise the risk of cross-contamination and soaps, towels and toilet paper should be easy to access for the elderly and infirm.
And as far as public sector hospitals are concerned, cost will always be a major factor. So what type of washroom systems can fulfil all these criteria and combine hygiene and ease-of-use with cost-effectiveness? Hand drying is at least as important as hand washing since damp hands can transmit around 1,000 times as much bacteria as dry hands.
Hand towels tend to be favoured over warm air dryers in hospitals because these are usually perceived to be the more hygienic option.
Numerous studies have been carried out into the hygiene benefits of paper towels versus hand dryers and opinion remains divided.
However, the fact that paper towels are quicker to use than electric dryers may mean that washroom visitors will be encouraged to dry their hands more effectively with a towel. Air dryers can be unacceptably noisy on a patient ward, too, while the action of rubbing the hands on a towel has been shown to physically remove some of the bacteria and is another strong argument in favour of paper towels.
Preventing skin problems
In the washrooms of intensive care wards,extra soft towels should be provided to avoid the risks of skin problems associated with frequent washing and drying.For the same reason soaps should be mild and unperfumed and moisturisers should be supplied.
Liquid or foam soaps should be provided in any hygiene-critical washroom to avoid the cross-contamination risks inherent with soap bars.There are also contamination risks associated with refillable bulk containers, so soap should be housed in a sealed unit to protect it from contamination before use.
The Tork Premium soap system,for example,works well in hygienecritical washrooms because the liquid soap is housed is a hygienic, sealed cartridge that takes only a few seconds to change.Lowmaintenance systems such as these incur lower labour costs and are less likely to be allowed to run out between maintenance checks.
Tork Premium Extra Mild Liquid Soap is perfume and colour-free and is suitable for medical and care settings since it can be used on frequently-washed or sanitised hands without causing soreness.
Healthcare washrooms should ideally have as few doors as possible to avoid the inherent cross-contamination risks of door handles,while automatic lighting will prevent the issue of contaminated light switches.
Regular checks should be made to ensure that consumables do not run out, and alcohol gels should be made available to supplement hand hygiene regimes.
Good design,a diligent cleaning regime and hygienic washroom systems are all key elements of a good healthcare washroom.Together these will provide a successful formula for reducing cross-contamination in the healthcare washroom - while also keeping down costs.