Bug Control’s goal is to help you create an infection-free facility. In 2019, we conducted over fifty audits of aged care facilities across Australia and New Zealand. What did we find? We found that vital areas of infection prevention and control are often overlooked. In this article, we highlight three consistently underperforming areas and give you practical advice on how to improve them.  

Decontamination and cleaning

Cleaning is a crucial part of achieving a high level of infection prevention and control. To become infection-free, all aged care facilities need a standard cleaning policy and procedures to ensure decontamination of all surfaces and equipment, which could harbour and transmit microorganisms. [1]

Recommendation 1:

Do you have a clear schedule for cleaning routines throughout the week that is visible to all staff? If not, we highly recommend creating one for 2020. If you need extra help, you can purchase our Cleaning Flip Chart, which provides a clear overview of cleaning policies and procedures, including equipment, materials and processes. An infection-free facility starts with the basics.

Vaccination management

Due to their age and often poor immune function, residents of aged care facilities are at high risk of contracting and spreading influenza, leading to potentially serious health complications such as pneumonia and even death. [2]

The most effective prevention against this is vaccination. The Australian Government, therefore, demands facilities aim for at least 95% of all aged care facility staff and residents to be vaccinated before the beginning of the influenza season. [3]

For people working within the health sector, the need to vaccinate residents against influenza may seem obvious. However, a 2018 nationwide survey shows that staff vaccination is frequently overlooked, with only 3.5% of facilities meeting the 95% vaccination coverage of their staff. [4]

Recommendation 2:

Vaccination is essential within aged care facilities to prevent the spread of influenza. Don’t forget that this also includes your staff. Our advice? Go beyond the 95% benchmark and make sure you have 100% vaccination coverage in 2020. The best time to organise vaccinations is in March or April, before the influenza season. If staff haven’t been vaccinated yet, they should be vaccinated as soon as possible.

Linen management

While washed linen may appear clean, washing does not necessarily kill or remove bacteria, which may spread infection to the facility’s residents. It is vital that washing and storing of laundry is correct. Typically, thermal or chemical disinfection is required in line with best practice and the AS/NZS 4146:2000 Laundry Practice standard.

Recommendation 3:

Your facility should have policies on the proper handling of linen and laundry. If you are unsure about your current policies, use our Laundry Flip Chart. In this chart, you will find detailed information about the safe management of laundry and the separation of dirty and clean laundry.

Conclusion

While it may seem difficult, the goal should always be an infection-free facility. Effective infection control programs involve standard procedures for all patients regardless of their perceived infectious risk, and additional precautions for patients known or suspected to be infected with highly transmissible pathogens. [5]

To ensure your facility understands these or other areas of improvement required, we highly recommend planning an audit.

Do you have questions about our approach or one of the topics we mentioned in this article? Please don’t hesitate to book a free 20-minute consultation with our team today.


[1]   Infection prevention and control standards, RACGP, 2016

[2]  Medical care of older persons in residential aged care facilities, The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, 2006

[3]  Guidelines for the Prevention, Control and Public Health Management of Influenza Outbreaks in Residential Care Facilities in Australia, Communicable Diseases network Australia, 2017

[4]  Review of infection control practices in residential aged care in Australia, Australian Aged Care Quality Agency, 2018

[5]  Medical care of older persons in residential aged care facilities, The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, 2006