Facilities Experts Urge Hospitals To Practice Ebola Preparedness

Posted by Heidi Schwartz

Two dozen medical professionals take part in an Ebola preparedness training. Here, using blue paint, participants practice proper hand washing and how to take gloves off without infecting themselves.
Two dozen medical professionals take part in an Ebola preparedness training program. Here, using blue paint, participants practice proper hand washing and how to take gloves off without infecting themselves (Photo: Carol Lollis, www.gazettenet.com).

Rider Levett Bucknalla property and construction firm specializing in healthcare facilities, project management, and building life assessment—is urging hospitals and healthcare organizations to prepare facilities now so they are ready to respond to pandemics and viral outbreaks. The firm advises hospitals to plan in advance and keep systems and technologies up to date to manage viruses (like Ebola and influenza) and highly other infectious diseases.

“Institutions must ensure that facilities are code compliant system-wide at all times, not just in times of outbreak,” states Montie Garrison, Associate Principal for Rider Levett Bucknall’s North America practice and a healthcare facilities team leader. According to the Joint Commission, last year healthcare facilities nationwide were regularly cited for unsafe patient care conditions, including ventilation, temperature, and humidity issues.

In order to prevent the spread of viruses and disease as well as maintaining public health, the firm urges hospitals and healthcare organizations to take three major precautions with their facilities.

1. Maintain building systems and monitor hospital environments.

“Over time, hospital’s building systems tend to drift from the original design specifications,” says Von Lambert of Rider Levett Bucknall. “Leadership in healthcare organizations may be unaware of the potential impact this could have on the health of patients, visitors, and staff.”

Hospitals should:

  • Review building management and mechanical systems for proper code and regulatory compliance during design, construction, and renovations.
  • Ensure facilities have adequate electrical capability to handle any additional loads that may be required to power mobile isolation rooms.
  • Create localized, in-room labs to enable faster test results and to limit potential contamination and infection.
  • Review systems continuously to make sure that corrective, routine, and preventive maintenance functions are up-to-date.
  • Constantly monitor the vital functions of all system components (ex. air exchanges, pressure relationships, particulate levels, etc.) to make sure they are functioning as specified.
  • Create a central alarm system and eliminate remote alarms in order to centralize detection, communication and action when an alarm is activated.

“Infected patients need the best healing environment possible,” says Lambert. “Institutions must regularly check their building systems to ensure air exchange, filters, and air pressure (the things that prevent spread of disease) are operating at the highest level.”

2. Integrate technologies to track and contain disease.

The firm also advises hospitals to employ:

  • Technologies such as Real Time Locating Systems (RTLS) to track assets and people to monitor possible contaminations, breaches of protocol, and conflicts.
  • Surveillance analytics and communication protocols to detect, analyze, and communicate data from multiple sources.
  • Implement infection prevention programs such as ultraviolet (UV) light room disinfection and HVAC Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI).

“Tracking tools can help manage the spread of disease,” adds Garrison. ”RTLS technologies can detect, communicate, and activate staff responses to potential contamination mistakes that otherwise might go unnoticed.”

3. Prepare for potential strain on emergency rooms.

Flu symptoms can be similar to Ebola symptoms. With the public and hospitals on high alert, and more people going to emergency departments, hospital resources may be stretched. Preventive strategies may help alleviate these strains on healthcare facilities and resources, and help hospitals to prevent the spread of infectious disease.