Looking to pass the next infection prevention and control (IPC) audit of your aged care facility? The path to success lies in meticulous and systematic cleaning and decontamination of the environment. From conducting over 50 infection prevention and control audits in Australia and New Zealand, Bug Control has established that 95% of all facilities that fail their audit underperform on the testing variable ‘cleaning and decontamination’.
What is decontamination and cleaning?
Cleaning is the process of removing unwanted substances, such as dirt, possible infectious agents and other impurities or debris from residents’ equipment including beds and furniture.
Decontamination is the process of removing both visible dust and invisible contaminants and microorganisms from that equipment. The three types of decontamination are biological (e.g. bacteria, fungi and viruses), chemical (e.g. moisture and vapour) and physical (e.g. particles, fibres and dust).
What is the root cause of the problem?
On the surface, it is easy to detect that many facilities have poor cleaning processes and that cleaning staff frequently lack attention to detail. Facilities may also have an insufficient frequency of cleaning routines and regular supervision of staff. Combine these with an inadequate number of inspections and audits and you’ve lost your chance of passing your audit successfully.
In our experience, the underlying problem is often a lack of understanding about the goal that cleaning and decontamination aim to achieve: an infection-free facility that ensures maximum health and safety for its residents. The lack of awareness of this higher goal is backed up by a recent study that reveals that only 23% of aged care facilities operate with a dedicated infection control committee and the majority lack qualified IPC professionals.
The disheartening truth
When conducting the infection prevention and control audits, Bug Control identified some commonly occurring problems. Visible dust and contaminants on bed frames, lifting equipment, wheelchairs and dressing trolleys were discovered in many facilities. Even more disheartening was auditing a facility where dried faeces were revealed on residents’ bathroom equipment: a degrading reality that should be avoided by every facility.
The limitation of budgets on resources for cleaning allocation has created numerous troublesome examples. For instance, some audited facilities have decreased or even cancelled all weekend cleaning due to higher weekend wages. This is a blatant violation of even the most basic cleaning requirements that demand daily cleaning of frequently touched surfaces with a detergent solution.
The urge to improve
To prevent infections from spreading in your facility, it is vital to systematically clean and decontaminate all surfaces and equipment which may harbour and transmit microorganisms. If cleaning is done irregularly or insufficiently, those microorganisms can survive, thrive and reproduce. As a result, infections can easily spread amongst residents, staff members and visitors, potentially resulting in illness or even death.
How to improve
Considering the above, it comes as no surprise that routine environmental cleaning is one of the key areas of infection prevention and control. Now how can you make sure you carry out a strong cleaning and decontamination strategy that enables your facility to pass that next audit with flying colours?
Our six-step checklist:
- 1. Establish a clear, simple cleaning schedule that includes both daily and periodic cleaning, including during weekends. Throughout our audits, we are actively looking for evidence of regular cleaning.
- 2. Make sure to follow the NHMRC 2019 guidelines regarding the frequency of cleaning required.
- 3. Verify that equipment and areas in your facility are dust-free and clean. Our IPC audits are a great way to collect evidence for this.
- 4. Check that the cleaning processes, schedules and outcomes are regularly reviewed .
- 5. Facilitate education for your cleaning staff concerning thorough cleaning methods and the importance of thorough cleaning. Please note we also offer aged care education and training online that focuses on cleaning so your staff can brush up on their knowledge at any given time.
- 6. Schedule an audit to reveal the unique weaknesses in your facility. This enables you to improve on those areas that need it the most.
 Organisation and governance of infection prevention and control in Australian residential aged care facilities: A national survey. B. Mitchell, R. Shaban, D MacBeth, P. Russo (2019)