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How The Hospital’s Cleaning Staff Can Help Save Your Life

The click, click, click of a hospital privacy curtain echoes through the room as Jeanna Hibbert pulls it down to be laundered. Hibbert has cleaned rooms at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York for a year. Today, the process is designed to protect the next patient against C-diff.

Clostridium difficile (C-diff) is a bacterial infection in the intestines that’s spread easily in hospitals and nursing homes. Nearly half a million people a year catch it, and for 15 thousand, the disease proves fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



Environmental Services workers clean to protect patients from C-diff.

As patients move, they can spread the disease throughout a health system.  So, four hospitals in Rochester decided to work together to stop the bacteria in its tracks.  They’re sharing procedures to diagnose the disease sooner, and limiting the use of antibiotics that destroy the good bacteria that can fight off C-diff growth in the body. And they’ve also stepped up their cleaning procedures.

Chris Lapple swabs to test for organic matter on a computer keyboard.

C-diff spores have a protective shell that makes them hard to clean. “You have to scrub like you’re really scrubbing a plate that has spaghetti sauce on it, to get rid of it,” says Doctor Ghinwa Dumyati, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Rochester Medical Center. The city’s hospitals have agreed to use a shared, scientifically-proven cleaning process.

“We share rates of our infections. We share compliance with cleaning. So, you could see your rate compared to the other hospital, and the competition really drives improvement,” says Dumyati.  This collaborative approach has paid off. From 2011 through 2015, the four Rochester hospitals saw a 36 percent decrease in C-diffinfections.

In the hospital room at Strong Memorial, Hibbert uses bleach and scrubs hard. “Cleanliness is next to Godliness,” says Hibbert as she moves around the room. When she’s done, we’re ready for testing. Staff trainer Chris Lapple checks the room for organic matter using a handheld electronic device. If it’s not clean enough, Hibbert will have to scrub again.

Lapple swabs 4 places in the room, including the computer keyboard and mouse. “So, now we’re going to measure the mouse. We’re going to see again, how she did with that. 23. She did perfect,” says Lapple.

Danielle Scott checks a handheld monitor to see if the room has been exposed to enough UV-light to sanitize the room.

Now, it’s team leader Danielle Scott’s turn. She does a visual check of the room. She inspects the bedside table closely. “So, this is like another hotbed action spot. So, you just give it a good check, down here. There could be drops there, anything. You check under,” says Scott. “It’s really good,” she concludes.

After reviewing the room, it’s time for sterilization: Scott brings in a machine that blasts UV-light from a 5-foot tall column. She jokingly calls the robot-like RD-9 “her friend,” and the two get a lot of attention around the hospital, especially from children.

When Scott finishes, the room is sanitized. Now, Hibbert just needs to make the bed and replace the curtains. This whole process took four people an hour and a half, but the efforts are worthwhile. Dr. Dumyati says the cleaning team may have saved the next patient’s life.

“Your role is as important as a nurse and as a doctor, because you are capable of preventing infection. You're able to prevent harm. So, before no one really paid attention to Environment Services, but now they're kind of at the same level as everyone else,” says Dumyati.