Ascom warns of infection dangers posed by medical equipment and devices amid COVID-19 crisis
While hand hygiene and environmental decontamination might be an obvious focus for infection prevention and control teams; the devices and kit used in hospitals and health centres also needs to be considered.
Initial research outlined in the joint guidance issued by the Department of Health and Social Care, Public Health Wales, the Public Health Agency Northern Ireland, Health Protection Scotland, and Public Health England reveals that human coronaviruses can survive on inanimate objects and remain viable for up to five days at temperatures of 22- 25°C and relative humidity of 40-50%, which is typical of air-conditioned indoor environments such as hospitals.
But, ultimately, its survival is also dependent on the surface type.
An experimental study using a SARS-CoV-2 strain reported viability on plastic for up to 72 hours, for 48 hours on stainless steel, and for up to eight hours on copper.
So cleaning equipment is a priority, particularly in isolation areas.
The guidance states that equipment must be fully cleaned and single-use products used where possible.
It is vital for hospitals to consider the cleanliness of the mobile kit that staff use on each shift and ensure their hospital or care home instigates an effective hardware-cleaning regime using the recommended products, along with good hand hygiene
Non-invasive equipment must be decontaminated after each patient and each patient use and after any bodily contamination.
And the frequency of this cleaning should be increased for reusable non-invasive care equipment in all isolation and cohort areas.
The type of decontamination or cleaning necessary depends on the risk and the type of product, ranging from chlorine disinfectants to general-purpose detergents or detergent-impregnated wipes.
Nurse call and communications solutions provider, Ascom, routinely tests its products with various cleaning and disinfectant solutions, and has produced a guide to cleaning them which should help trusts stick to the stringent protocols being adopted.
Managing director, Paul Lawrence, said: “Every healthcare organisation will be acutely aware of the important of regular handwashing and cleaning of the environment, but fewer will have considered the cleanliness of the kit clinicians use throughout their shifts.
Ascom has been installing its communication systems in temporary hospitals being set up across the country to house patients with coronavirus
“Smartphones and other handsets are often shared between staff when they end their shift, so they could have a big impact on spreading germs.
“And, as a provider of hardware solutions for mobile working in hospitals and care homes, we are acutely aware that clinicians need advice on optimum cleaning of their kit during this pandemic.”
Every healthcare organisation will be acutely aware of the important of regular handwashing and cleaning of the environment, but fewer will have considered the cleanliness of the kit clinicians use throughout their shifts
Its handsets and nurse call modules have also been designed so they can be operated while medics are wearing protective gloves, another tick in their favour during the COVID-19 response.
“Globally we have seen a significant increase in requests for support,” said Lawrence.
“We focus on enabling better time-critical communication between mobile staff, and that’s just what many organisations need right now.
“Where new hospital wards are being created to support the influx of patients, we have been asked to support with new and existing communications systems to enable staff to communicate effectively between each other - through both WiFi and digitally-enhanced cordless communications (DECT)-based systems – as well as directly with patients through nurse calls. Of course, these need to be simple, pre-configured solutions that we can get up and running straight away.”
He adds: “It is vital for hospitals to consider the cleanliness of the mobile kit that staff use on each shift and ensure their hospital or care home instigates an effective hardware-cleaning regime using the recommended products, along with good hand hygiene.
“They also need to ensure staff are up to date on how, and how often, they should clean their mobile devices and nurse call systems, and they should be retrained if needed.
“We would advise designating one member of staff on each shift to be responsible for making sure everyone adheres to the guidelines.”