24 Jun 2011
A recent report stated that the operating theatres at two Yorkshire hospitals were closed because of “significant ventilation problems”. The report did not specify in which way the systems at Malton and Whitby hospitals were “performing below the required standard” only that the units had been closed to preserve high standards of patient safety.
It has been well documented that uncleaned ventilation (air conditioning) systems provide an ideal route for harmful micro organisms to be spread throughout a hospital. The dust and debris which builds up in these systems will contain human hair and skin particles – ideal nutriments for organisms to thrive, particularly MRSA and C.difficile. With the battle against these life-threatening healthcare associated infections clearly not won, hospitals have been consistently advised, both inside and outside the industry, to have their ventilation systems regularly checked. Both the Healthcare Facilities Consortium and MRSA Action UK have strongly pointed out that failure to have systems cleaned could cost lives. In addition, the Department of Health itself has stated “Increased health risks to patients will occur if ventilation systems do not achieve and maintain required standards”.
In spite of all the evidence and the legal requirement placed on managers to exercise a duty of care, there are still far too many hospitals where checking the ventilation system has not been made an essential part of an overall plan to reduce and contain the spread of HCAI. The Heating and Ventilating Contractors Association have also made their contribution to achieving safer conditions in their Guide to Internal Cleanliness of Ventilation Systems, TR19. Fully approved HVCA specialist contractors will usually carry out a system safety assessment, free of charge, so there are no affordability excuses for not taking this first essential step.