Over the past decade, Australia’s healthcare industry has seen significant growth, thanks to innovation, quality staff training programs and a higher standard of practices and protocols. According to the Australian welfare 2017 report, Australia’s population is increasingly ageing, however this paradigm shift presents a range of challenges and opportunities for older Australians and the wider community. Therefore, health, wellness, safety and overall care of patients in hospitals and aged care facilities are emerging to be the utmost importance.
Quality and safety in the healthcare industry is defined by The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care as ‘reducing the risk of unnecessary harm associated with health care to an acceptable minimum and the degree to which health services for individuals and populations increase the likelihood of desired health outcomes, and are consistent with current professional knowledge’.
Examining the challenges and solutions of cleaning techniques and products within the healthcare industry can help provide a safe and high-quality health system that offers ultimate care required and elevates the overall standard for patients admitted into hospitals and aged care facilities.
How ergonomics is affecting health and wellness
The healthcare industry is one of the largest employing industries in Australia, with numbers increasing year on year. Due to the nature of some of their work such as handling toxic drugs and chemicals, performing physically demanding tasks, community and personal service workers accounted for 11.1per cent of serious workers’ compensation claims in 2016 – 17,  which is the second highest rate of serious claims according to the report.
The science of ergonomics is becoming a major talking point within the healthcare industry, as evaluating workplace conditions and job demands are shifting to become more effective, successful and productive. To investigate the challenge of ergonomics within the healthcare industry, trials undertaken by DorsaVi revealed microfibre mopping had a 20 per cent lower movement risk, over traditional mopping. Introducing microfibre mopping eliminated a number of risk factors, firstly the mopping action is completed closer to the body’s core which offers more evenly symmetrical shoulder movement and secondly eradicates the use of buckets of water, getting rid of the need for filling and carrying heavy buckets of chemical solution. Both these factors contribute to lower risk for and deliver a number of benefits for an organisation as a whole.
In response to a growing number of workers suffering injuries, the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012 – 2022 identified the health care industry as a priority to reduce the number and rate of work related injuries and illnesses. The strategy aims to reduce the number of worker fatalities due to injury of at least 20 per cent and reduce the rate of claims for musculoskeletal disorders by at least 30 per cent.
The impact of infection control
One of the biggest and most common challenges for a healthcare or aged care facility is balancing infection control. The risk of Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs) occur for many reasons, and whilst they can’t be completely eliminated, they can be managed with the correct protocols.
Environmental services or frequent touchpoints such as door handles, bathroom taps, and lift buttons can carry infections which is why The Communicable Disease Network Australia (CNDA) recommend these areas be cleaned more frequently than the routinely recommended daily cleaning.
The first step many institutes take is the introduction of microfibre mops and cloths, which is a relatively new innovation within Australia’s healthcare sector. With research showing microfibre to be the superior system to traditional methods of removing pathogens and organisms from the point of cleaning, microfibre products have reinforced confidence in cleaning for staff and infection prevention management teams.
Having a strategic cleaning programme using microfibre cloths and mops which are fully launderable can help prevent and control the spread of infection with products that maintain a high reputation for high standards.
How enhancing the cleaning environment can lead to positive change
Cleaning staff at many healthcare facilities face a daunting task, using a traditional wringer mop to clean a patient’s bedroom and bathroom for example. Typically, traditional mopping can take cleaning staff a significant amount of hours to clean with significant strain on parts of the body such as shoulders and lower back and an increase WHS risks as water is being pushed around, emptied and filled again and again.
Rather than pushing around grey water from one corner of the room to the other, typically witnessed when using a traditional mop, the microfibre systems offer a high standard of cleaning and increased productivity. Cleaning staff have reported an increase efficiency since switching to microfibre products increasing the average number of rooms cleaned in a 6 hour period by 129 per cent, additionally a single cleaner is capable of cleaning a whole wing within one shift.
Sustainability is such an important consideration, as people are becoming increasingly more concerned about the environmental impact of their choices. Sustainable cleaning by reducing chemicals and water without compromising on the standard of hygiene is an important step in enhancing positive change and benefiting the health and wellness of staff and patients alike.
The development of microfibre cloths that trap dirt, dust, grease and germs from a range of surfaces and touchpoints without the use of high quantities of water and chemicals which go down the drain and reusable mop heads and cloths that can be washed again and again reduce the amount of product waste going to landfill.
Delivering an impeccable cleaning experience and environment for those in the healthcare industry is constantly going to be updated and enhanced with the introduction of new innovative products and techniques which do the job better than it could previously have been done. With patient demand high, productivity and time management pivotal for success is important to continue to solve the challenges faced within the healthcare industry and strive for the best possible cleaning standard.