How can your facility be infection-free in 2020?

Helping you create an infection-free facility is Bug Control’s goal for 2020. Throughout 2019, we conducted aged care facility audits in over fifty locations across New Zealand and Australia. Want to know what we found? We found that crucial infection prevention and control areas are often missed. This article is our way of sharing three areas of consistent underperformance, and some useful advice on how you can make sure that you don’t make the same mistakes.

Cleaning and Decontamination

Successful infection prevention and control relies heavily on effective cleaning. Standard cleaning policies and procedures are essential for aged care facilities to become infection-free, as they ensure the decontamination of all surfaces and equipment that can harbour and spread harmful microorganisms. [1]

Recommendation 1:

An easily visible schedule showing weekly cleaning routines that’s available to all staff is crucial. If you haven’t updated yours in a while, it might be worth checking your current routines and ensuring that they’re sufficient. If you’re looking for more resources to help improve your cleaning efficiency, Bug Control’s Cleaning Flip Chart shows you how easily you can implement the best practice guidelines. It also provides an overview of cleaning policies and procedures, including what equipment should be cleaned and how often, with what, and how. Make sure you’re on top of the basics by reviewing your cleaning practices.

Vaccination management

Due to their stage of life, residential aged care facility residents are at a higher risk of contracting and suffering greatly from certain diseases, particularly influenza. As influenza is more likely to lead to dire health complications, including pneumonia and death, [2] it’s important to help minimise risk by preventing disease spread.

One way to do this is vaccination, which is the most effective way of preventing influenza in aged care facilities. The Australian Government requires that at least 95% of all staff and residents in RACFs are immunised before the beginning of the flu season each year. [3]

While this has been the case for several years now, many facilities still aren’t compliant. In fact, a nationwide survey conducted in Australia in 2018 showed that staff vaccination in RACFS isn’t typically considered a priority, with 96.5% of facilities failing to meet the staff vaccination requirements.  [4]

Recommendation 2:

Facilities cannot afford to overlook staff or resident vaccinations. Failure to meet these minimum rates of vaccination can result in serious illness or even the death of aged care residents, as well as lost working time for staff who become ill. Our advice? Aim for 100% vaccination coverage for the 2021 flu season. And as vaccine supplies often run out, even for priority recipients such as the elderly and care workers, it’s worth reminding your staff to get their flu jabs in March or April, to try and beat the rush.

Linen management

It’s dangerous to assume that just because linen looks clean that it actually is. Washing linen might get rid of surface stains and dust, but it doesn’t necessarily remove or kill bacteria, meaning that ‘clean’ linen can still be spreading disease through your facility. Because these pathogens are invisible to the naked eye, it’s crucial that laundry is washed and stored correctly. Generally speaking, linen should be thermally or chemically disinfected as specified the AS/NZS 4146:2000 Laundry Practice standard.

Recommendation 3:

Your facility should have policies and procedures in place to ensure that linen and laundry are properly handled. If you think your current policies need reviewing, you could always consult our Laundry Flip Chart, which provides detailed information about safely managing laundry.

Conclusion

The reason that so many facilities fail on these three points is because their policies and procedures don’t incorporate best-practice principles. Infection prevention and control cannot be an add-on to regular processes — it needs to be a fundamental part of every relevant activity. Facilities shouldn’t aim to just minimise infections, they should aim to reduce them to zero. By ensuring that their standard procedures protect even the most vulnerable of residents, RACFs can be sure that they are doing everything they can to not just reduce, but completely eliminate, infections within their facility.

If you’re not sure whether your facility is doing enough to prevent infections, we suggest booking an independent audit.

If you have any questions about cleaning, infection prevention and control, or any other issues raised in this article, please feel free to contact us for a free 20-minute consultation with our team.

  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